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Over to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United's understudies

03 Apr 2010 00:28:53

Over to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United's understudies

With Wayne Rooney out of action for Manchester United, Arsenal losing skipper Cesc Fabregas for the rest of the season and Ashley Cole missing for Chelsea, Sportsmail takes a look at the injury-hit title challengers' understudies.  MANCHESTER UTD CASUALTY LISTAfter a startling absence of central defenders earlier in the season, Sir Alex Ferguson now finds his options limited in attack, with Wayne Rooney out for a month after twisting his ankle in Munich and Michael Owen already out for the season with a torn hamstring. Owen Hargreaves is finally close to a return after a long fight back to fitness after operations on both his knees for tendinitis. Rio Ferdinand is back in action, although doubts still linger over his persistent back problem. Come in No 9: All eyes will be on Berbatov to fill the void left by Rooney at United BIGGEST LOSSWayne Rooney. A scoring record of 34 goals in 40 appearances this season underlines Rooney's influence. Not only the talented spearhead of the team, he also engenders its spirit with his unyielding desire. VITAL BACK-UPDimitar Berbatov. Lazy or just languid? Whatever your thoughts, the Bulgaria striker has yet to provide value for the £30million invested in his talents and must seize this chance to fill the Rooney void up front. ARSENAL CASUALTY LISTArsene Wenger is without his four most influential players. His best defender William Gallas will not play again this season after a recurrence of the calf injury which has troubled him all year. Andrey Arshavin is out for up to three weeks with a calf problem and Cesc Fabregas may not feature again this season after breaking his leg against Barcelona. Robin van Persie, out since November with ankle ligament damage, will return to training next week but is unlikely to play for a fortnight. French fancy: Arsenal will be looking to Samir Nasri in the absence of Fabregas BIGGEST LOSS...Cesc Fabregas. Nineteen goals from midfield this season and many more assists for the Spain star prove his value but he is also the leader of this young team and the one they seek to oil their passing game. VITAL BACK-UPSamir Nasri. He wants to play in the Fabregas position and this will be his chance. Outstanding in the role against Porto at the Emirates last month, he can finally prove the hype about him being the new Zidane was not misplaced. CHELSEA CASUALTY LISTDidier Drogba is fit to face Manchester United despite the twin irritations of a kick he suffered in training this week and a minor groin problem which he hopes to manage through to the end of the season without surgery. But Chelsea have had their share of injuries this season. Ashley Cole and Michael Essien have missed big chunks of the campaign, as has Jose Bosingwa. Branislav Iivanovic and Rricardo Carvalho are out for a month, although Juliano Belletti is available again to give options at the back. On the ball: With Ashley Cole sidelined, Zhirkov (R) must justify his £18m pricetag BIGGEST LOSS...Ashley Cole. In flying form this season, arguably his best since the switch from Arsenal. Solid in defence, quick and dangerous in attack, he was looking again like the world's best left back when he broke his ankle in February. VITAL BACK-UPYuri Zhirkov. Still far from living up to the £18million price tag or the suggestion that he is the 'Russian Ronaldinho' but must now find his rhythm because fluent full backs are integral to Carlo Ancelotti's side's style.  Fabregas a World Cup doubt after Arsenal confirm captain has broken legDouble trouble for Man United as Drogba returns for title showdownMANCHESTER UNITED FC


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