Arsenal's Arteta targets Europa League glory as top-four hopes fade

·2-min read
Premier League - Arsenal v Manchester City

(Reuters) - Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has described Thursday's Europa League last-32 second-leg clash against Benfica as a 'final' after Sunday's 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City further dented their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Raheem Sterling's goal after 75 seconds condemned Arsenal to their third defeat in four games and left them in 10th with 34 points, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham United.

If Arsenal do miss out on a top-four spot, they can qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League and Arteta said the competition had taken on added significance, with their tie against Portuguese club Benfica finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

"The Europa League's always been really important but obviously every defeat now in the league will put us in a difficult position," Arteta said.

"We have to take it game by game, we need a run of games. I think we are having a big run of performances but we lost two or three games now in different ways and it's not we want.

"...We have a final on Thursday because we want to continue in the competition. We have to sleep, eat and we won't have time to train, then we fly to Greece."

Arteta said he would make several changes to the side after a draining contest against City, the Premier League leaders.

"I don't know if it will be five, four or seven [changes]. We will have to see how they react," he said.

"It was a really tough game physically for both because it was full gas from the beginning and we will see who will be available and fit to be there."

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)