Arsene Wenger admits the difference between winning the Europa League or not will impact on the future of Arsenal – even though he will not be there to see it.
The Gunners take on Atletico Madrid in Spain on Thursday night for a place in the final – with their semi-final tie finely-poised at 1-1.
Wenger has already announced he will step down as Arsenal boss at the end of the season following a tenure extending over more than 21 years.
The 68-year-old could yet go out with a bang if he delivers Europa League glory and, with it, a return to the Champions League.
Arsenal have endured another poor season domestically and sit sixth in the table, some 36 points adrift of champions Manchester City, and victory at the Wanda Metropolitano will offer solace to both Wenger and a club preparing to move on from a man who has spent over two decades at the helm.
Asked if the game was one of the most important in his time at the club, Wenger replied: “The next one is always the most important in life.
“Of course it is the most important because it is the next one, because it is a big game as well.
“It influences the future of my club and that is why it is massive.
“It is a very, very big for us because the future of Arsenal Football Club is not exactly the same if we qualify for the Champions League or not.”
Wenger has yet to be drawn on what he will do when he steps down, but insists he will give everything to Arsenal until he leaves as he wants a good ending to his long association with the club.
“I don’t know what I will do next season,” he said. “At the minute I think I would like to finish well my job.
“I believe a man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere. With all my commitment and energy I would like to walk out of Arsenal one day and think ‘until the last day I focused only on Arsenal’.
“When my job is finished at Arsenal I will see where I go from there but I want to finish this love story well.”
While Wenger may yet be sat in the dugout for the last time as Arsenal boss on a European night, Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone will watch from the stands.
But, while Simeone will find it hard to watch from afar, he insists such flash points as last week will not lead him to changing his fiery dugout demeanour.
“I won’t carry it too well,” he said. “I’m sad about the situation and the suspension. I will have to improve and I’d best not say anything else.
“It is not going to change the way I coach the team, seeing myself on television, it could be understandable, it depends how you see it. It could be interpreted normally as it is just a protest.”