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Fabregas to face Benfica
Published : 05 Aug 2011 16:30:11
Cesc Fabregas looks set for his first Arsenal pre-season appearance in Saturday's final friendly against Benfica, but it remains to be seen whether the wantaway Spain midfielder will feature in the Champions League play-off against Udinese.
Fabregas was all smiles as he joined in with the rest of the Gunners squad for training at London Colney this morning ahead of the flight to Portugal. Barcelona want to bring their former trainee back to the Nou Camp, but will have to significantly up a Â£27million offer for Arsenal to cash in on their captain.
However, should Fabregas - who has, officially at least, been troubled by a hamstring problem - feature against Udinese, the first leg set for Emirates Stadium on August 16, then he would be ineligible to play in the competition for the defending champions should a move go through ahead of the transfer deadline.
Arsene Wenger will be in need of all the help he can muster, serving a one-match touchline ban himself following UEFA disciplinary action in the wake of his rant against Swiss referee Massimo Busacca in last season's away defeat to Barcelona.
Midfielder Samir Nasri was also sanctioned by UEFA for his outburst at Busacca, and will not be available, nor will striker Robin van Persie, whose suspension for a controversial sending off was carried over into Arsenal's next Champions League tie.
While Arsenal were spared a long-haul trip to eastern Europe in Friday's draw, the timing of the play-off tie - needed after a spectacular end-of-season collapse - will see the Gunners face a testing schedule which also includes Barclays Premier League fixtures at Newcastle and Manchester United, with Liverpool set to come to Emirates Stadium on August 20.
Although Fabregas was expected to be among the travelling squad, neither Jack Wilshere nor Theo Walcott trained with the rest of the group this morning because of ankle problems, which could also impact on their involvement in next week's England friendly against Holland at Wembley.
Contract rebel Nasri was another absentee, as he nurses his own minor ankle complaint. Wilshere, 19, accepts he is facing another step on what has been a rapid rise next season.
"I don't really feel any more pressure now," Wilshere said in a Q&A at Arsenal's Members Day.
"I play in a good team so the players around me make it easier. There is a bit more responsibility though. At this stage last year I had not played a game for Arsenal. I was just trying to prove myself. I am still trying to prove myself now really. I am just trying to keep my place in the team."