Arca relishes Downing's challenge

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The Independent Football

Julio Arca is ready to fight for a regular place in the Middlesbrough side and face head on the challenge from England winger Stewart Downing.

The Argentine player has finally recovered from a broken foot and returned to the Boro starting line-up against Liverpool on the left wing last weekend because Downing was having treatment for a groin strain.

Downing could be back for Saturday's Premiership trip to Aston Villa, but Arca, who made his debut for Boro at left-back on the opening day of the season, is happy with the competition. He said: "It was frustrating to pick up an injury in the very first game at Reading, but it was great to come back in front of the Middlesbrough fans against Liverpool.

"Obviously I know that Stewart will return when he recovers from his injury but it is a challenge I have to deal with. Stewart is playing for the England national team so I know that it will be difficult."

Arca was signed from Sunderland for £1.75m last summer, primarily to play at left-back, but has been out of action since suffering a broken foot in the first half of the opening Premiership match at Reading.

Since then England Under-21 international Andrew Taylor has made the left-back spot his own, and so Arca is now battling on two fronts to prove himself on Teesside.

He said: "I came to England as a left-back back but I have played on the left wing for Sunderland and so I was happy to play there against Liverpool. When you play and are involved with the team it helps you to get your confidence back.

"But you have to keep fighting because there are a lot of good players here and the competition is strong in every position."

While striker Mark Viduka battles to shake off a broken big toe, the Boro manager, Gareth Southgate, has been playing with five men across the midfield. This may yet lead to Arca being utilised in a Bolo Zenden-type role inside Downing, though Arca knows that the competition for places will increase further once Viduka is fit.