Preview: Arsenal primed for strong finish to season
Arsene Wenger has all but conceded any possibility of the Premier League title but still believes the team have a realistic chance of silverware in the Champions League and FA Cup. As a rejuvenated Arsenal headed for Villarreal and Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg, Wenger was in buoyant mood following Saturday's demolition of Manchester City which extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 17 matches. "You cannot win the championship if you lose five of your first 14 games," he said after Arsenal's 2-0 victory. "But the team is young and we have come through it, and we are not the same team now as we were in August and September. "There's a lightness back in the team, we are playing without the handbrake and we go into this Champions League game in a good state of mind, very focused, full of belief and commitment. I still believe this season can be a very successful one for us." Arsenal's win consolidated fourth place in the race for next season's Champions League spots, but as important as the three points was the return from long-term injuries of midfielder Cesc Fabregas and striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Fabregas, back in the side for the first time since December after recovering from a knee injury, ran the match in midfield and made both goals for Adebayor, returning after 10 games out with a hamstring injury. Winger Theo Walcott, also returning to the starting lineup after injury, should be fit to face the Spaniards when Arsenal play their 200th match in European competition. Dutchman Robin van Persie, injured while on international duty for the Netherlands last week, is more unlikely to play but has not been completely ruled out while Eduardo and Abou Diaby remain on the injured list. Andrei Arshavin, who signed from Zenit St Petersburg in the winter transfer window is ineligible after playing for the Russian side in the UEFA Cup earlier this season. CAZORLA INJURY Villarreal are still reeling from their miserable 3-0 league defeat at Almeria on Saturday, that was made all the worse by the injury to winger Santi Cazorla. A fractured shin bone has put the Spain international out for the rest of the season. "Cazorla is a key figure for us, but we have a large squad and whoever steps in in his place I am sure will do well. We will try to beat Arsenal for him," defender Diego Godin said. "Saturday's game aside we have been playing well. We will try to pick ourselves up again." Villarreal remain fourth in the Primera Liga and have never lost at home in the Champions League. The last time they played Arsenal in the competition they drew 0-0 at the Madrigal to fall 1-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals in 2006. Possible teams: Villarreal: 13-Diego Lopez; 18-Angel Lopez, 4-Diego Godin, 2-Gonzalo Rodriguez, 5-Joan Capdevila; 10-Cani, 19-Marcos Senna, 6-Sebastian Eguren, 7-Robert Pires; 15-Nihat Kahveci, 22-Giuseppe Rossi Arsenal: 1-Manuel Almunia; 3-Bacary Sagna, 5-Kolo Toure, 10-William Gallas, 22-Gael Clichy; 27-Emmanuel Eboue, 17-Alex Song, 15-Denilson, 4-Cesc Fabregas (captain); 14-Theo Walcott, 25-Emmanuel Adebayor. Referee: Tom Henning Ovrebo (Norway)
6 April 2009
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