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Arsenal handed long-distance fixtures in Europa League draw

Gunners to face Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Ukrainian side FC Vorskla Poltava

31 August, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Unai Emery: ‘The travel is very long but it’s like that. The reaction to the draw for us is positive’

THE Arsenal players are set to rack-up the air miles this season following the Europa League draw in Monaco this afternoon (Friday), but gaffer Unai Emery insists that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Gunners were drawn in Group E alongside Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Ukrainian side FC Vorskla Poltava. The competition kicks off on September 20, and, with Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup fixtures, the north Londoners are facing a hectic schedule.

Far from being overwhelmed, however, the new Arsenal head coach says that he is looking forward to the challenge.

“We have respect for the three teams. We want to work and go a big way in this competition,” said Emery, who is no stranger to the Europa League having won it three times in a row with Sevilla. “The travel is very long but it’s like that. The reaction to the draw for us is positive.”

He added: “When you play two matches in a week, you have more time to prepare for them, to prepare the players physically. When you play three matches in a week, it’s hard. There’s less time to prepare, but we want it like that. We want to play three matches in a week with the league and the cups.

“After the international break, we are going to play a lot of matches. In this moment, we are not playing every player in this squad because we’re only playing one match every week. But I am sure we’re going to use a lot of players after this international break.”

For now all eyes are on Arsenal’s next fixture, a tough trip to the Cardiff City Stadium to face the Bluebirds on Sunday. Emery is taking preparations for the 1.30pm kick-off so seriously that he has even banned his players from drinking fruit juice.

Speaking at this afternoon’s (Friday) press conference, the Spaniard revealed: “I like fruit a lot and I like fruit juice. But with a lot of sugar? Not very well. It’s for that and when I was very young, my father was coming every day with one fresh orange fruit juice. I like in my life, more of that.

“It’s for that, when I arrived here, I asked only for that from the cook. And the players, I think, are the same. They prefer their orange juice fresh.”

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