Thursday 23 November 2017

Arsenal face anxious wait as Fabregas 'fighting to be fit' for Barca

Jeremy Wilson

ARSENAL are cautiously hopeful that Cesc Fabregas will be fit to face Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow after a scan revealed severe bruising rather than ligament damage to his knee.

However, Fabregas requires further treatment and will be assessed in training over the next 24 hours, with an Arsenal statement last night saying that their captain was still "fighting to be fit" for the match against his former club.

Fabregas suffered the injury after what manager Arsene Wenger deemed a "bad tackle" by Birmingham City's Craig Gardner in the first-half of the 1-1 draw at St Andrew's on Saturday.

Samir Nasri, who also played through a minor injury against Birmingham, is most likely to replace Fabregas as the playmaker in central midfield should he fail to recover.

Fabregas is Arsenal's top scorer this season with 18 goals and, according to Wenger, has made considerable improvements over the past two years.

"I believe he is more relaxed," said Wenger. "There is less tension in his finishing. You feel that before he wanted to force the chance. Also he has gained more physical power. You can see he resists much more the runs of his opponents.


"These two ingredients make a big difference. Also I believe the change in formation has had an impact. He has more freedom to join in now."

Meanwhile, Wenger claims tomorrow's clash with Barcelona will complete an "unbelievable" turnaround in the fortunes of Sol Campbell. The 35-year-old defender ended his first spell at Arsenal with a Champions League final goal against the Catalan giants in 2006.

But by the start of this season Campbell's career had dipped to the extent that he joined League Two club Notts County.

But after one appearance against Morecambe, Campbell is now preparing to face the most admired club side in the world.

Wenger put his faith in the centre-back when he re-signed him in January but even he is surprised by the change in Campbell's fortunes.

"It is unbelievable," said Wenger. "He played at Notts County six months ago. That he can turn up and play against Barcelona is quite amazing."

Defenders Eric Abidal and Gerard Pique have both been included in the Barcelona squad following injuries. Thierry Henry, Arsenal's all-time record goalscorer, is also in the 20-man squad. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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