EUROPA LEAGUE: Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira eyeing final triumph over Chelsea after fighting his way to the top
Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira faces one of the biggest games of his career tomorrow night when he lines up against Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku. But, the tenacious Uruguayan has fought harder than most to reach this moment.
The 23-year-old joined the Gunners from Italian side Sampdoria last summer, and after an impressive debut campaign in North London - where he has become a key cog in Unai Emery's team - Torreira is determined to finish it with a trophy.
"We were just the one point getting off the top four and that would have changed everything, of course, but we do have a fantastic opportunity to get into the Champions League, and also win a cup, because it has to be said that the Europa League is an important competition in itself," he said.
"It's something that the fans want, it's something that the teams want, and it would be great if we can get a win, not just because it would mean us playing Champions League football next season, but also because it'd give us a chance to win a trophy for the club."
The midfielder is also pleased with his first season in England, but admitted that it hasn't been easy.
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"It hasn't been easy at all, this first season, but generally speaking it's been a very good season," he added.
"There's been some great successes, some ups and downs as well, but that's the case for all teams all seasons. Looking back at the season we've done very well.
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"I've felt very comfortable here and I want to thank all the people at the club who've helped me because it's my first year and it's not easy to change countries, and come to a different league, knowing how difficult this league is."
Changing countries is something that Torreira is used to.
He left his native Uruguay aged just 17, when he signed for Serie B side Pescara, and despite impressing enough to earn a move to Sampdoria after just one season, it didn't come without its struggles.
"It was very difficult to leave Uruguay. It's never easy to leave your country, your family, your friends. It's a different culture, a different language and really another world," he said.
"I left at just 17 to go to such a big country as Italy. I'm very grateful to everyone at Pescara, they were very welcoming to me and opened their doors to me from the first day and it's a real family atmosphere around the city.
"I had these warts on my feet that meant I could not train properly and my boots would hurt, but at no point did I hold up my hand and say I was in pain.
"It was an opportunity to change my life, and change the lives of my family and really make a name for myself.
"It went on for a long time, the pain, until one day they took me to the doctor and I was able to get the treatment I needed."
The family that Torreira has fought so hard for will be in Baku on Wednesday to cheer on their young warrior and hoping to see him lift the Europa League, a trophy that the midfielder wants to win for both those close to him and the Arsenal fans.
"This season has all been very new of course, with a new coach after the previous manager left after 22 years. That's never easy," he said.
"There are also lots of new players that came in who had to adapt to life both in the Premier League and in a new country.
"But I think it has been a very good season and if we win the Europa League that will be a chance for us to play in the Champions League next season and compete with the best teams.
"I am not saying the Europa League is a secondary competition because it's very important for us.
"We want to win it and give the fans something to cheer about because they are the ones who really deserve that."