Wenger ready to rotate - so who will start for Arsenal tonight?
Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott return to squad to face Shakhtar at the Emirates
THEO Walcott and Cesc Fabregas are both expected to return for Arsenal in tonight’s Champions League meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger is also set to rotate his squad with Sunday’s Premier League game against Manchester City in mind, and that could mean a number of changes from the side that beat Birmingham on Saturday.
Skipper Fabregas is likely to return for his first game since suffering a hamstring injury at Sunderland on September 18, with Wenger ready to take a chance on his fitness to give the Spaniard a chance to prove himself ahead of Sunday’s game.
“Cesc is available,” said Wenger on Monday. “He is good and has prepared well. He had a little setback but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness.
“I do not know yet whether I start him or not but he is available. It will be [determined by] whether I take a gamble or not, because he has been out for a long time.”
Walcott has been out for a week longer than Fabregas after picking up an ankle injury while playing for England in their Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland on September 7.
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“Theo has a toe problem,” said Wenger. “But his ankle is all right and he is in the squad. It would be difficult for me to tell you who will start because I do not know yet.”
Walcott was an unused substitute on Saturday, but Wenger will be tempted to use him from the start in tonight’s game and give Samir Nasri a much-needed rest.
Like Nasri, Andrey Arshavin played two international games and did a lot of travelling during the international break,, and he may also warm the bench tonight giving Tomas Rosicky a start on the left flank.
Kieran Gibbs is another who will step up in place of Gael Clichy, the Englishman having recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the England squad for the recent game against Montenegro.
However, there will be no rest for Marouane Chamakh, despite the return of Nicklas Bendtner as a substitute in the win over Birmingham.
“Bendtner doesn’t look ready yet on what we have seen [on Saturday],” said Wenger. “He needs a few more weeks. He has not played regular football for a long time and you do not come back straight away like that into competition.
Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Manuel Almunia are all still sidelined, with only Almunia having a chance of returning in time for the trip to Eastlands on Sunday.
Arsenal probable starting XI: