Cesc in Barca fitness race
Cesc Fabregas will miss the game with Sunderland but Arsene Wenger hopes he will be fit to face Barcelona.
Last Updated: 03/03/11 10:52pm
Arsene Wenger has ruled Cesc Fabregas out of the weekend clash with Sunderland but hopes he will be fit to face Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League next Tuesday.
Arsenal captain Fabregas has sat out the past couple of games, including the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham, with a hamstring problem sustained against Stoke.
He stated in his programme notes for the FA Cup fifth-round replay against Leyton Orient that he hoped to return in Saturday's Premier League match at home to the Black Cats.
However, Wenger has now quashed such speculation and insisted his focus is on getting the Spaniard ready for the trip to Camp Nou.
The Gunners manager will be desperate to have his talismanic midfielder available for the eagerly-awaited European encounter and will make a decision 24 hours before kick-off.
"I personally hope he will be fit next Tuesday," Wenger said after watching his side thrash Orient on Wednesday 5-0 to set up an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.
"He has a chance to play against Barcelona.
"I don't think he will be involved on Saturday. There is no chance but we will try with him on Sunday and Monday, and give him a final test Monday morning."
News that Fabregas will not be able to play against Sunderland is still a blow as Arsenal look to further boost their Premier League title hopes.
Chelsea did the Gunners a favour by beating current leaders Manchester United 2-1 in a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge earlier this week and Wenger was happy with the result.
The French tactician recognises, however, that it is up to his men to take control of their own destiny by continuing their fine form until the end of the season.
He is confident Arsenal can overhaul the four-point gap to United, especially now they have a game in hand, but feels the race for top spot is still wide open.
Manchester City's chances have receded in recent weeks but Wenger does not think they should be written off yet despite trailing United by ten points with just ten matches left to play.
Speaking about Chelsea's win on Tuesday, Wenger said: "For us it keeps us even better in the race.
"I felt that even a draw would have been good for us, but if we win our games it just depends on us.
"It depends how consistent we will be with our results. That will decide the championship.
"I don't rule Man City out because everybody can drop points everywhere.
"We have been on a very good run if you look at our last ten games and if we maintain our consistency we have a chance."