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Emery keen to wrap up top spot

Arsenal have won their first three games in the Europa League this season.

Sporting Lisbon provide the next test for Unai Emery’s Arsenal (Tim Goode/PA)
Sporting Lisbon provide the next test for Unai Emery’s Arsenal (Tim Goode/PA)

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery is targeting early progression into the latter stages of the Europa League with victory over Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night.

The Gunners have won their opening three Group E matches and a fourth win in succession could be enough to seal qualification for the knockout stages in first place.

Sporting head to the Emirates Stadium with an interim manager, Tiago Fernandes, in place after former coach Jose Peseiro left the club since the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.

Emery’s side are defending a 14-match unbeaten run after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool extended a streak that stretches back to August.

The Spaniard, who won the Europa League three years in a row while manager of Sevilla, is now aiming to maintain Arsenal’s perfect start to their continental campaign.

“Of course the first (thought) for us is to finish first in this group,” Emery said.

“It is a very important match because they are second in the table and if we win, we are first in the group. That’s our clear target.

“We want to find our focus in two ways – one is in this competition, which is very important for us. It’s one way (to win) a title and get into the Champions League next year.

“The second focus is on our work, to continue to improve and to continue with the players, taking responsibility and confidence.

“They (Sporting) are a team with very good players, very good history, also in this competition.

“They’ve changed the coach but I think for them tomorrow is a very big match and a very good test in this competition, also for fighting for first position against us. But we want tomorrow to give a big match with our personality.”

Tiago, who has previously won titles with Sporting’s Under-19 team, is keen to use his chance to make a mark on the Europa League.

Sporting endured a difficult summer as a host of players departed following an attack on the club’s training ground by disillusioned supporters.

Peseiro replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic, who lasted just nine days in the job, with Tiago the third man to take charge of the side this year.

He guided Sporting to a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara in the Primeira Liga at the weekend but has the task of trying to get a result from Arsenal as Al Jazeira coach Marcel Keizer is reportedly close to being appointed.

“As manager of Sporting, every game you play with this team is to win,” he said.

“I do what the chairman has asked me and tomorrow I will do the same as I have throughout the week. I have had help from the players.

“That motivates me and I have happiness to represent this team in the competition and to manage players with this quality.

“I’m always here to help Sporting, however long the situation is. I will be ready to give a contribution to the team, I have been here eight years and I will not comment on the rest.”



From Belfast Telegraph