Arsene Wenger warned his Arsenal players their summer holiday could be shortened by as much as a week if they are leapfrogged by Manchester United and finish outside the Premier League's top three.
Arsenal have grown used to playing a two-legged Champions League qualifier in August as England's fourth-best team for much of the past decade and, although they have always progressed to the group phase, the knock-on consequences are wide-ranging. "They have to come back a bit earlier, a few days perhaps, sometimes a week," said Wenger.
"It means less holidays for the international players. Every day in practice you have to focus. You are already thinking about that day."
Wenger also remains certain that his worst defeat as Arsenal manager - an 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2011 - was hugely influenced by a gruelling Champions League qualifier at Udinese four days earlier.
"It was the most stressful qualifier," said Wenger. "It was very hot that night. We also had to buy quickly that year because we had so many long-term injuries and, when you have to buy quickly, you can go wrong. When you qualify at Udinese and a few days later have to go to Old Trafford, you have more chance to lose the game than to win it. Sometimes you pay the price in the Premier League."
United could climb above Arsenal into third should they win tomorrow's match although Wenger's team do still have the safety blanket of home fixtures against Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion in the final week of the season.
"We can mathematically put a distance between them and us in the top four and basically secure the top three," said Wenger. "Also, we can make a symbolic statement because we won over there in the FA Cup. To reproduce that would be psychologically important. To do it again would convince us more that we have the strength and can be even stronger next season."
Wenger has already said that Alexis Sanchez will miss the start of next season - and that would probably include any Champions League qualifier - should Chile reach the latter stages of the Copa America and he knows that it could also impact on his player recruitment. "It's very important for your season preparations to not have that kind of stress of a Champions League qualifier over your head from the first day you start again," said Wenger. "It's vital. We know what it means and we know it's always tricky because you can play against teams who are in the middle of their championship when you are in preparation.
"It's difficult [with bringing players in]. They think that most of the time you're playing in the Champions League but you're not sure. The only thing we can say is that statistically we have always done it."
United can no longer say that after last season and Wenger knows they will be direct competitors this summer for certain players, including perhaps Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. "It looks to me like they are on the market because every player I'm offered I'm told Man United are on the case as well," said Wenger. "It looks like they are very active and you expect them to come back again with some strong buys."
United made one particularly controversial transfer last summer in selling Danny Welbeck to Arsenal but the Arsenal striker is ruled out tomorrow with his knee injury. Welbeck should return next week but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is facing FA Cup final heartbreak at Arsenal for the second successive year after hurting his hamstring in training.