Martin Odegaard eager for Champions League return after taste with Real Madrid

Martin Odegaard has had a small taste of the Champions League and is now hungry to take Arsenal back to European football’s top table.

The Gunners know that victory at the home of north London rivals Tottenham on Thursday night will see them end a five-year exile from the Champions League.

A nervy 2-1 win over 10-man Leeds on Sunday afternoon, courtesy of a brace from Eddie Nketiah, has left Arsenal on the cusp of a top-four finish as the season reaches its climax.

Odegaard is likely to captain the visitors at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium later in the week and is one of only a handful of players in Mikel Arteta’s squad to have sampled Champions League football – albeit just two group games for former club Real Madrid.

Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal saw off Leeds.
Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal saw off Leeds. (Frank Augstein/AP)

“I’ve played there a few games but I don’t feel like I’ve really played there,” he said.

“I really want to get into there and fight. That’s where the best teams want to be of course so that would be big for me and the club.

“We have a young team but I think with the young players we have, we have a lot of experience as well.

“We’ve been through a lot and we just enjoy playing football together and you can see that on the pitch. We enjoy it.”

Sunday’s victory should have been much more comfortable for Arsenal but they were unable to finish off a Leeds side who had fallen two goals behind in 10 minutes before captain Luke Ayling was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.

“I think it was a good win, an important win,” added Odegaard.

“We know the situation we’re in so obviously very happy with the three points. Some parts of the game we have to do better.

“We always knew it was going to be a fight until the end. Some parts of the game we can do better and kill the game. But three points is all that matters.

“That’s all that matters taking the three points. We have to win in different ways.”

While Arsenal’s ambitions this season remain lofty, for Leeds it is all about Premier League survival.

Their defeat at the Emirates Stadium, coupled with Everton’s victory at Leicester, means Jesse Marsch’s side have slipped into the bottom three.

The American head coach has backed his players to fight until the end and winger Jack Harrison revealed just how Marsch is trying to inspire the squad.

“He (Marsch) showed a quote from Gandhi before the game about having belief and that is the most important thing for us,” he said.

“Everything else comes after that, at this point it is a difficult moment for us as a club but we have to stay together, have belief and keep going forward positively.

“We have an important game coming up on Wednesday again and we just have to stay strong and be ready for that. Having that belief is going to be crucial going forward.”