Arsenal vs Hull City preview - Bruce wary of European demands

Posted Sunday, May 11, 2014 by PA

Steve Bruce believes qualification for the Europa League can be both a blessing and a curse for clubs like Hull.

Bruce's Tigers will make their European bow regardless of what happens in their FA Cup final against Arsenal, courtesy of the Gunners' top-four placing.

Yet the result remains vitally important, with victory carrying them directly to the group stages and defeat condemning them to the early qualifying rounds.

And while it represents an astounding achievement for a side whose over-riding ambition for the season was to simply avoid relegation, it can also be something of a double-edged sword.

Newcastle, Stoke and Bolton are among those who have struggled to balance the demands of the competition alongside those of the Premier League, while Swansea's domestic form this term has been a shadow of the 2012/13 vintage.

Bruce has no intention of dampening fan enthusiasm for the adventure ahead but is under no illusion about how difficult it will be to manage.

"We're in Europe, which is fantastic. I'm sure the fans are looking forward to it," said Bruce, whose side host Everton on Sunday in their last Premier League match of the season.

"We have to look at it that way and then we have to realise, when we start planning, that the ramifications of it are huge.

"There's a huge complication with Europe. However, let's not derail it before we get into it...when the draw comes out in mid-July then to see our name in amongst it will be fantastic.

"That's when it will grab hold of people. We're in with the Tottenhams and Evertons from our country and some big clubs from others. You only have to look at the teams (Sevilla and Benfica) in the Europa League final which is coming. Big clubs with huge traditions and histories. To be part of it, great."

Bruce has made no secret of the fact that he feels certain players have taken their eyes off the ball in the league since securing their place at Wembley at May 17.

Indeed, Hull have gathered only one point from a possible 12 since seeing off semi-final opponents Sheffield United on April 12, and that against relegated Fulham.

The requirements of continental competition are even more demanding and, with Hull heading into the final round of fixtures just four points above the bottom three, there is no real buffer zone to absorb many Europa League hangovers.

"The reason we've tailed off recently is the FA Cup and when you're going to be playing Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, it is very difficult," Bruce said.

"You know what it's like if you go on holiday: Airports, late flights, getting back in the middle of the's never easy.

"We understand how difficult it is but we can't be frightened of it.

"Some clubs have done extremely well, but if you're one of the smaller teams in Europe and you get a bigger team, they have a huge advantage."

Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor is in contention to start after a six-week lay-off.

The Scotland international appeared to be out for the season when he broke three ribs and damaged a kidney at the end of March but has been battling desperately to prove his fitness before the cup final.

Meanwhile, Everton boss Roberto Martinez has stressed he views talk linking him with other clubs the same way as he does speculation involving his players - as a "compliment".

Reports have emerged suggesting Tottenham are looking at Martinez as a potential successor to Tim Sherwood.

When asked about it ahead of Sunday's trip, the Toffees manager said: "It is a little bit as I always answer - any sort of speculation we take as a real footballing compliment.

"This is the time you are going to get rumours, with talk about new squads and the next moves.

"From our point of view, it means we have done something right - that, as a football team, we are performing well.

"That affects players, members of staff and managers. We take it in a positive manner and just carry on working hard."

Steven Pienaar looks set to return to action at the KC Stadium, which could also see Lacina Traore make his comeback from injury.

Martinez is optimistic winger Pienaar, absent for 10 games because of a knee complaint, will be fit to feature but has stressed the need for caution with regard to on-loan striker Traore, who has had an even longer spell out due to a hamstring problem.

It seems the match will come too soon for the recovering Darron Gibson (knee) to make his first appearance since October, while fellow midfielder Gareth Barry, having been unable to play against his parent club Manchester City last weekend, is eligible for selection again.

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