Lucas Perez hat-trick propels Arsenal to first place

"Having a second leg at home is a big advantage [in the knockout stage] and it gives you the belief that you can do it".

City finished second in its group, six points behind Barcelona, which ended the group games with a 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The evening belonged to Lucas Perez, who scored his first hat-trick for the Gunners as they cruised to victory, capped off by Alex Iwobi early in the second half. While the A-listers - the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich - march into Spring eyeing Europe's most prized club trophy, Arsenal have sloped away for domestic chores.

"I feel we had a good start, we were quite mobile and technically very agile as well, and quick", he said.

One possible opponent is Bayern Munich, who ousted Arsenal in the first knockout round in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. Arsenal went through Group A undefeated, the first time they had managed that since the 2005/06 season, and qualified for the last 16 as group winners for the first time since 2011/12.

They were delighted to hear of events in Paris, where Ludogorets managed to pull off a draw to seal the Gunners' qualification for the Round of 16 as the top team.

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So too will the effectiveness of fringe players such as Lucas, who tapped in twice from nearly identical positions at the back post inside the first 16 minutes - both times after Kieran Gibbs left-sided raids.

"I thought Ludogorets were a good side - they made a great result that helps us top the group, which was what we wanted", Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

All in all, Arsenal players and fans alike would be elated at securing the top spot in the group stage.

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However, the Liga side's primary concern will be on avoiding a two-goal defeat in Lyon that would deny them qualification. He scored more than 20 goals in Spain last season and he has shown why.

But he capped a memorable first Champions League start with his third goal of the evening just two minutes after half-time when he slotted Alexis Sanchez's pass low into the far corner.

  • Tabitha Byrd