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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Lichtsteiner: Gunners have chance of glory

Arsenal's Stephan Lichtsteiner. Photo: Reuters
Arsenal's Stephan Lichtsteiner. Photo: Reuters

Stephan Lichtsteiner admits he is hungry to take Arsenal back into the Champions League after the competition returned in style this week.

While Premier League rivals Liverpool secured a last-gasp win over Paris St Germain and Tottenham lost to Inter Milan, the Gunners are preparing to open their Europa League campaign at home to little-known Ukrainian outfit Vorskla Poltava.

This is the second successive year that Arsenal have spent in Europe's second-tier club competition, reaching the semi-final stage under Arsene Wenger last season.

Winning the Europa League has the additional prize of a place in next season's Champions League group stage, while a top-four finish in the league would also be enough to take Unai Emery's side back to the top table.

Asked if Tuesday's action had whetted his appetite to return to the Champions League, Lichtsteiner replied: "I am hungry to get back to the Champions League.

"But it is a long way and we have two chances - the Europa League and the Premier League. We want to try as I am sure we want to play Champions League next year."

The 34-year-old has yet to start for Arsenal after joining on a free transfer from Juventus in the summer, but is expected to come into the side as Emery makes changes for the Vorskla clash.

The Switzerland captain is a serial winner, having lifted Serie A in all of the seven seasons he spent at Juventus, and insists playing for the Italian giants showed him that all games have to be taken seriously. "One thing I learned with Juventus is to have respect for each competition," he added.

"In the last four or five years with Juventus, we tried to play for all the titles, for all the trophies.

"While the Italian Cup wasn't that important beforehand, we started to play for it with the best team possible.

"I think in football you have to respect all the trophies. Of course the Champions League is a more glamorous title, but the Europa League is a really good chance for the team, for the club and all the players to win this nice trophy.

"I think for that we have to respect all teams in all competitions to give all games 100 per cent." Emery, who won the Europa League three years in a row while at Sevilla, is likely to make a number of alterations for his first game in charge of Arsenal in the competition.

Emery could hand goalkeeper Bernd Leno his Arsenal debut as he is expected to ring the changes for the tie.

Lucas Torreira is in line for his first start while the likes of Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck and Lichtsteiner will be pushing for rare outings as Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Sead Kolasinac (knee), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (leg) and Carl Jenkinson (ankle) remain absent.

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