(Reuters) – Arsenal can compete for the Europa League title but the players must first cope with the long-distance travel during their group-stage matches, manager Unai Emery said on Friday.
The north London side, who reached the semi-finals of Europe’s second-tier competition last season, were handed a logistical challenge when they were pitted against Ukraine’s Vorskla Poltava, Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Portugal’s Sporting in Group E.
“First it’s three teams and we’ll have the recipe for them. After this, we want to go far in this competition,” said Emery, who has won the Europa League three times with Sevilla.
“Each match is different and each match involves a lot of travel.
“The adaptation for these three teams needs to be positive and we need to face them with ambition and our interest to do well in the competition.”
Arsenal have a packed schedule after the international break at the start of September, playing four matches in nine days that include Premier League, League Cup and Europa League fixtures.
“When you play three matches in a week, it’s hard. There’s less time to prepare for the match and work physically, but we want it like that,” Emery added.
Emery confirmed Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil was fit for Sunday’s league clash against Cardiff City, having recovered from an illness that kept him on the sidelines during their 3-1 win over West Ham United last weekend.
“He’s training normally with the group in every session this week,” the Spaniard said. “We started on Tuesday and he’s been with the group; he’s okay, he’s looking well.”
(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)