"It's been a hard two years for me with my knee injuries. But now I'm fit and I want to concentrate on playing as many games as possible."

Since an eye-catching opening campaign in 2011/12, persistent knee injuries have disrupted Jon Toral's progress.

Toral missed out on a full summer before making a goalscoring return when he netted a brace in the 4-2 win over Aston Villa back in November. The attacking midfielder is now desperate to get as many minutes as possible under his belt.

This is the first year they have done it. It's good to have another competition other than the league

Jon Toral

"I needed to do a bit of catching up after missing pre-season," Toral told Arsenal.com. "I had to work really hard to to get up to the same level as the rest of the team.

"I did a lot of conditioning work with the fitness coaches which really helped me get back up to that required level."

Next up for the under-21s is a trip to the Recreation Ground for a League Cup quarter-final against Chelsea and, after two disappointing results in the league, Toral is looking forward to a change in competition.

"It's a good cup to be in," he said. "This is the first year they have done it. It's good to have another competition other than the league.

"We need to find our winning mentality again because we got off to a really good start to the season. There's still a lot to look forward to with the league, the cup and the Youth League as well. We've got a good game coming up against Chelsea, we all want to beat them and I hope we can get to the semi-finals.

"We haven't really talked much about Chelsea, we try to focus on ourselves. But our intensity needs to be high and our defending needs to be spot-on. We know Chelsea have got some gifted players so we need to be focused defensively.

"Then we need to take our chances and we have the players to hurt Chelsea."

Jon Toral
Jon Toral

Toral moved to north London in 2011 with compatriot and close friend Hector Bellerin, who is currently enjoying a successful loan spell at Watford. The Hornets' training base is situated next door to Arsenal's, so the pair have stayed in regular contact.

"I see him pretty much every week," said Toral. "We go out for dinner sometimes or he comes round to my house, He's doing great and he's really enjoying it.

"Playing in the Championship week in, week out is very good for him. He's a very good player and he's proving it for Watford.

"He said it's different but he also said he's learning a lot every game and it's a great experience for him. It's a different style of football but it's still a high level.

"Going on loan is something I can see happening in the future," he added. "There's always a possibility here to go out on loan and get some professional games.

"But first I need to forget about my injuries and play lots of games for Arsenal Under-21s."

We will have live tweets from the Recreation Ground from 6.55pm (UK time) on the @Arsenal account.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Isaac Moore 26 Jan 2014