Arca urges Boro to ease end-of-season pressure

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The Independent Online

The Middlesbrough midfielder Julio Arca is urging his team-mates to reproduce the form they have mustered against the big guns to make a solid finish to the season.

Gareth Southgate's side have encountered a difficult run of fixtures as the race for Premier League survival has intensified. However, their response has been excellent, particularly on the back of a FA Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Cardiff City.

In the wake of that disappointment, Boro have travelled to Aston Villa, Arsenal and Chelsea either side of a narrow 1-0 home win over Derby County and lost only at Stamford Bridge. They followed up draws at Villa Park and the Emirates Stadium by holding league leaders Manchester United in a four-goal thriller at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

Arca is confident a continuation of their recent consistency can pay dividends over the final games of the season. "In the last few weeks we have played against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United and we have had some good results," Arca said. "That shows how good the confidence in the team has been over the last five or six weeks.

"It's important because the lads have been working hard and at this stage of the season, we need to get points and try to finish the season with as many points as we can."

Boro play Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday before home matches with Bolton Wanderers, Portsmouth and Manchester City either side of the derby trip to Sunderland on 26 April.

Saturday's 2-2 draw with United – Afonso Alves' double had given Southgate's side a 2-1 lead before Wayne Rooney levelled – left Boro nine points clear of the relegation zone. Victory would have all but ended their relegation fears, but Arca insists a point was a more than creditable return.

"We created enough chances to win the game," he said. "We knew how hard it was going to be – you know how difficult is it going to be to play Manchester United, and that's why we were so proud to get a point.

"We were a bit disappointed that we didn't get three, but it is still a good point. We don't have to be upset because we didn't win, it is still a good point.

"Now the difference between us and relegation is nine points, so it is more comfortable."

Arca, 27, who returned to the starting line-up at the weekend after a four-game absence, will hope to retain his place at White Hart Lane, and for a run-in he hopes will be largely free of pressure.

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