BARCELONA - There was encouraging news
for Arsenal fans on Monday when manager Arsene Wenger included
Robin van Persie in the squad to face Barcelona and said Cesc
Fabregas was "90 percent likely" to play in Tuesday's game.
Arsenal take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of the tie at
the Nou Camp and Van Persie was expected to miss the game with a
knee injury sustained in last week's League Cup Final that
Wenger said wuld rule him out for at least three weeks.
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However, he trained on Monday before the squad flew to the
Catalan capital and was included in a 19-man squad, which will
be trimmed to 18 before the match.
He will be assessed by medical staff on Tuesday morning,
Wenger told a news conference at Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium,
although he stressed that he was not prepared to risk playing
the Dutch striker if he was not properly fit.
"He has made quick progress in the last few days," Wenger
said. "He had a test this morning and it was quite positive. We'll
see how he responds to that and I'll make my decision tomorrow.
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"Of course we'll not take a gamble in a game of that
importance. He'll really have to be fit. It's no mind game. The medical staff will assess him. I
would like him to play if possible but we will only play him if
he is 100 percent fit.
"I will consider 99.5," he added with a smile.
Captain Fabregas has been fighting to overcome a hamstring
injury but Wenger said he expected his captain to recover.
"It is vital for us because he is important in the
transition between attacking and defending," Wenger told the
club's website earlier on Monday.
Appearing at the news conference with Wenger in Barcelona,
where he was a youth player before joining Arsenal, Fabregas
said he and his team mates had been surprised Van Persie had
joined them on the flight.
"Robin is a very, very important player for us because he is
the complete striker," he said. "He gives you all the options
that you need."
On his own physical state, Fabregas said: "My fitness is
good. For the last six days I haven't felt anything. I prefer to
be safe and I know that I am good if selected to play and that's
it. That's the reality."
Fabregas and Van Persie missed the Nou Camp second leg of
the team's quarter-final last season when the Spaniards
triumphed 4-1 to go through 6-3 on aggregate.
Wenger said midfielder Jack Wilshere, who turned an ankle in
Saturday's goalless draw with Sunderland, would be able to play
but Alex Song had been ruled out with a knee injury. Winger Theo
Walcott will also miss the game with an ankle injury.
"Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available,"
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