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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Birmingham get European licence

Birmingham will be allowed to compete in the Europa League next season after being granted a UEFA licence.

There had been speculation the award could be under threat because of Blues' financial situation, though the club themselves always maintained it was not a concern.

Acting chairman Peter Pannu told the official club website: ''This means we can all focus on what are really exciting times for the club.

''We have three important Premier League games remaining and we can take this good news into them, starting at Newcastle on Saturday. Then we can all look forward to competing in the Europa League alongside some of the continent's finest clubs.

''Being granted the licence - which we were always confident of achieving - will put to rest once and for all some of the scaremongering that has surrounded the club.''

Blues qualified for the Europa League by beating Arsenal in the Carling Cup final.

Manager Alex McLeish has warned of the need for Birmingham to have the necessary strength in depth to cope with the demands of participating in the Europa League.

McLeish said: ''We are looking also to build this summer. We've got Europe coming up as well. I spoke to my friend in Holland, Jan Wouters, and he said his team, FC Utrecht, ran out of steam after a brilliant start to the season when they played great stuff.

''They beat Celtic over two games, did quite well against Liverpool and Jan says they ran out of steam because of the Europa League campaign. That tells you we are going to have the resources to cope with all competitions, especially with the intensity of the Premier League.

''But, listen, I'm not even thinking about the recruitment stuff just now until we are mathematically safe.''

Birmingham are four points clear of the bottom three and have a superior goal difference ahead of the game against Newcastle. But McLeish is adamant his players will not relax and believe their task has been completed.

He said: ''There is no risk of the players taking their foot off the pedal. Not a chance. We have got players who will run through brick walls for the club. They are a credit to themselves in terms of their attitude, spirit and character. They will go right to the end of the season.

''We have three games left and will try and take as many points. We are only looking forward now. I don't know what will be needed to stay up. I'm asked that every single week and I don't like to make predictions. If I don't get it right people say 'you were wrong about that'. I'll say nothing.''

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