Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka believes the Premier League’s top six clubs would all be at home in the Champions League.
For the first time, this season’s Champions League and Europa League finals will be contested by teams from the same country as England dominates UEFA’s continental competitions.
Liverpool and Tottenham both secured memorable second-leg comebacks to set-up the first all-English Champions League final since 2008.
Meanwhile, Xhaka’s Arsenal will meet Chelsea in Baku after the Gunners eased past Valencia and their London rivals progressed with a penalty shootout win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
With Manchester City favourites to retain the Premier League and Manchester United, although finishing the season with a whimper, also showing they can mix it with Europe’s best after turning around their Champions League round of 16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain, Xhaka feels all could cut it in the competition.
“Every team that can get to a final is strong enough so, we know Chelsea, we play a lot against them,” he said.
“Four teams in the final shows everyone what a league the Premier League is and we hope we are ready for the final.
“You should have to go for the first six from the Premier League into the Champions League, so strong is the league.
“It is only four teams, four teams in the final now and so we can be proud.”
Unai Emery’s Arsenal need to win the Europa League to seal a return to the Champions League as their top-four ambitions were all-but ended with a disappointing home draw against Brighton last week.
The Spaniard, appointed as Arsene Wenger’s successor last year, lifted the trophy three seasons in a row as manger of Sevilla and now Xhaka wants to add silverware to Emery’s first campaign in England.
“Of course, every trophy and every title is important,” he said.
“It is important if you take the title here and go to the Champions League. Of course we want to be in the Champions League through the Premier League but that is the past and we have to look forward now and we will see in three weeks.”
With both Arsenal and Chelsea having to travel to Baku for the final on May 29, the journey for plenty of fans will be a long one – if they are lucky enough to land a ticket.
UEFA have only issued around 6,000 tickets per club but Xhaka insists the players have to put everything to one side and worry only about bringing the trophy back to the Emirates Stadium.
“We can’t change anything,” added the Switzerland international.
“It is not our job to say something about this – it is one game, it is a final and the better team win.
“I don’t know when we (will) go to Baku but it is one game. It is not about Baku, or we play in Europe or somewhere else.
“You have to be ready in this 90 minutes and you have to be ready in this moment.
“I think history is nice – if you can be in the history of this amazing club it is something to make you proud but first we have to win.”
Derby boss Frank Lampard has criticised the “incredible” decision to overturn a penalty for his side during their 1-0 Championship play-off defeat to Leeds.
The Rams were given a spot-kick with 12 minutes to go at Pride Park, following a collision between Jayden Bogle and Jack Harrison in the box.
But referee Craig Pawson then changed his decision following discussions with assistant Eddie Smart.
Leeds led at the time through Kemar Roofe’s 55th-minute strike – a goal that was ultimately enough to see Leeds leave Pride Park with the win.
“I think it was a close call for the penalty, but for it to be overruled by a linesman who is further away than the referee is incredible,” Lampard said.
“The ref is the boss and he made the decision. If it is going to change then surely it has to be because there is something clear and obviously wrong and there wasn’t.
“Contact is minimal but there is a foul there and I don’t understand why it was changed.
“We won’t get it back now but I would like to speak to the officials to understand their decision-making process.
“We were more positive in the second half and created chances, but we need to be better on the ball and be more confident on Wednesday (in the second leg).
“If we go out then I want us to play how we have been playing recently. They will put us under pressure but we have to stay confident.”
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa insisted the best team had won.
He said: “We always play to win and I think it was a deserved win. I am really pleased with the performance.
“Apart from the first minutes of the first half and then 10 or 15 minutes in the second half, when we dominated the ball, we defended well when we had to defend well and we attacked well when we had to attack.
“I did not have a clear view of the penalty. We are very far away from the action and have many players in front of us, so I can’t give an opinion.”
The Argentinian pointed to events elsewhere this week as good reason not to take anything for granted.
“The Champions League games this week are a warning of what could happen,” he added. “A 1-0 lead is not enough to be comfortable going into the second leg.
“It (the win) is an advantage, but we still have 90 minutes to play.”
Boss Dean Smith praised Jack Grealish but demanded more from Aston Villa following their 2-1 play-off semi-final comeback win over West Brom.
Conor Hourihane’s rocket and Tammy Abraham’s penalty turned the game around in the final 15 minutes to give Villa a narrow lead in their Championship play-off semi-final first leg.
Dwight Gayle opened the scoring but was sent off with two minutes left after collecting a second yellow card for diving in on Villa keeper Jed Steer.
Grealish set up Hourihane and won the spot-kick for Abraham to win it and Smith praised his skipper.
He said: “With the quality he’s got he can create things. That’s where we want him on the ball in the final third.
“Credit to West Brom in the first half, he had to beat four or five players with the numbers they had behind.
“By keeping our width in the second half, it gave us licence to go forward and get into places.”
But Smith expects more from his side after they were forced to battle back from a goal down at Villa Park on Saturday.
He added: “I’m pleased we won the game but not pleased with the performance. We can certainly perform a lot better.
“Albion came with a game plan to sit behind the ball and slow the game down which they did very well and they capitalised on a mistake from us.
“Our movement and use of the ball we didn’t do well enough in the first half.
“We never created as many chances as we should have with the players we’ve got.
“In the second half we were better and we kept our width better. We created more opportunities but it took a really good shot from Hourihane to get us back into it.
“We’ll be going for the win (on Tuesday). That’s how we want to approach games and how the players know I want to approach games.”
Villa went behind when Gayle drilled in from the edge of the area in the 16th minute after Glenn Whelan’s error gave him a clear run through.
Jay Rodriguez had earlier hit the bar and Albion looked like holding on until the 75th minute when Hourihane netted from 20 yards.
Just 202 seconds later Villa were ahead when Kieran Gibbs brought down Grealish in the box and Abraham netted his 26th goal of the season from the spot.
Gayle, who was booked for time wasting, then received a second yellow card after making contact with Steer as he slid in to reach James Morrison’s cross.
He is now banned for Tuesday’s second leg and caretaker boss Jimmy Shan questioned referee Graham Scott’s decisions.
“He’s got booked for allegedly time-wasting for the throw-ins. To my mind, every time the ball went out he had an intent of walking towards to the ball,” he said.
“It’s a new one on me if you have to jog and sprint to restart every time the ball goes out.
“I’ve got no problem with the referee discussing that with him and trying to hurry him up, but not once did Dwight stand still, every time he’s walking to take the throw-in.
“The second one, he’s got every right to contest the ball. It’s a fantastic delivery from James, great timing from Dwight and if he gets contact he’s a two-goal hero. He’s obviously a big player for us, that’s obviously a big frustration.
“He is a goal threat but gives you so much more, he is going to be a big blow (on Tuesday).”
Shan admitted Albion must approach the home leg on the front foot if they are going to overturn the deficit and reach Wembley.
He added: “That’s the approach we’re going to have to have. Maybe tactically we have to have a different approach.
“We sat deeper today, the game plan worked for large parts but we were undone with a shot from distance and a penalty.
“It’s simple communication, when the ball gets squared (for the first goal), to get people in the right slots. We’re frustrated with that one and the momentum swings with them.”