LONDON - Arsenal's Dutch forward Robin Van Persie is back in the squad for Wednesday's North London derby at Tottenham Hotspur after a long injury layoff, manager Arsene Wenger said.
World Cup-bound Van Persie has been out since November with ankle ligament damage sustained on international duty and will most likely be on the bench at White Hart Lane.
"He is in the squad for tomorrow's game," Wenger told a news conference on Tuesday. "It's a bit premature maybe (for him to start) so I will see but he is in the squad.
"He will feature. When I pick a player it means he is fit and sharp and has worked very hard. Of course, he lacks match practice but physically he is ready, he is fit."
Van Persie's recovery will be welcome news for Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.
Third-placed Arsenal, three points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with five games left, need a win to keep up their title bid while fifth-placed Spurs are four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand in the battle for fourth.
"Chelsea are in a strong mathematical position but that doesn't mean that it will happen as predicted because this league is special this year and that unpredictability is what we have learned about the whole season," said Wenger.
Both sides are struggling with injuries to key players with Arsenal also missing Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas, Andrei Arshavin, Kieran Gibbs and long-term absentee Aaron Ramsey.
Tottenham will be without Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar, who was injured in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final defeat by Portsmouth, and Wilson Palacios who is suspended after being booked at Wembley.
Spurs are also missing Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon and long-term injury victim Jonathan Woodgate while fellow central defender Ledley King has not trained this week.
"I'm trying to find 11 to play at the moment," manager Harry Redknapp said on Tuesday. "It will perhaps be an opportunity for one of the younger lads to come in and show what he can do.
Asked how Spurs would cope with such a big game so soon after their energy-sapping 2-0 extra-time loss to Redknapp's former club Portsmouth at Wembley Stadium, he said:
"You pick yourself up, brush yourself down and start all over again. It's what happens tomorrow that counts. Adrenaline will carry the players through whether they are tired or not.
"It's a derby and we'll find the energy. It will be a tough game, they are a good side and playing well but we're in great form as well."comments