Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro says he is eager for a return to Champions League football, as his side gear up for a “cup final” against Manchester United on Friday night.
The Gunners trail Casey Stoney’s third-placed United by six points in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, but have one game in hand on their rivals.
And Montemurro admits the significance of the fixture is massive, with a place in the top three worth a spot in the first round of next season’s premier European competition.
“A win against United will certainly help our top-three hopes,” said Montemurro.
“There are still some important games to play and interesting ties, but United is like a cup final - it’s a big game for us.
“We want to show we are keeping tabs and keeping up with the top teams, and be part of that bracket. From that perspective it’s also an important game for us.
“We’re in uncharted waters - we’ve never been in this situation. The interesting thing is that each challenge against those top two or three teams presents different opportunities.
"We know we are good enough to be in the upper echelons of English and European football.”
While Montemurro insists he is happy with his current squad, the 51-year-old Australian revealed the club are looking to make a couple of additions and knows the draw Champions League football can bring for new arrivals.
“It does help to bring in new players if we play in the Champions League,” he said. “We don't have to do a lot of recruiting, but there are a couple of elements where we can improve the squad.
“But with [Anna] Patten and Lotte [Wubben-Moy] coming a long way and doing fantastic, it’s positive.
“We are clear on how we want to play and how we want to recruit to play a part of that. The Champions League spot is important for us and we want to make sure we get there and stay there.”
It has been an injury-hit season for Arsenal but Montemurro says they head into Friday’s key fixture with a relatively full squad on the back of successive 4-0 wins over Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
However, Jen Beattie has been declared unfit for the occasion, while the Arsenal boss confirmed youngster Anouk Denton has gone on loan to West Ham.
Montemurro continued: “Jen Beattie hasn’t made it, unfortunately. Steph Catley is also out. Katie McCabe is fine and trained all week. We’re looking at one other injury potentially but I can’t disclose that yet. We’re pretty close to last week’s team.
“United are very structured in their lines and press, but what we do well is trying to exploit the movement of their attackers. In defensive phases and transitions they are a very good team, so we need to be careful.
“Our positioning was poor in the reverse fixture. We have explosive players and very mobile players like Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little, but sometimes I have to grab them to tell them to stay still and hold their positions.
“It is important that we have cooperation when we are under the press in order to win.”