Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal ready to put faith in veteran Campbell

Arsene Wenger believes Sol Campbell can prove his worth to Arsenal if the veteran defender plays against Porto tonight.

Campbell has featured just twice for the Gunners since beginning a second spell with the north London club in January, playing 90 minutes in the FA Cup defeat at Stoke and 55 minutes in the 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw with Aston Villa.

But the 35-year-old former England international looks likely to be called upon to make his first European appearance for Arsenal since the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2006 following an injury to fellow centre-half William Gallas.

Gallas (back), midfielder Alex Song (knee) and Andrey Arshavin (hamstring) were all absent from the 18-man squad which left Luton Airport yesterday afternoon, as were goalkeeper Manuel Almunia (finger) and striker Eduardo (hamstring).

Asked if that meant Campbell would play, Arsenal boss Wenger said: “It's a possibility that I don't rule out at the moment because if he does not play it means two left-footed players in that position (Thomas Vermaelen and Mikael Silvestre).

“It would mean he can show his signing was worth doing and he can help us in going through to the last eight.”

Meanwhile, Arshavin has pleaded with Cesc Fabregas not to leave Arsenal for Barcelona, although he he understands the temptation.

Speculation continues to persist that Fabregas is set for a return to Barca, where he spent six years as a youth-team player before joining the Gunners in 2003.

Reports suggest that there is already a deal in place which will take the Arsenal captain back to the Nou Camp at the end of the season — something which both clubs have strenuously denied.

“If he goes to Barcelona, I will understand his choice. But as an Arsenal player, I really don't want this to happen,” Arshavin said.

“I remember when there were rumours of his departure last summer, I told him half-jokingly, half seriously: ‘Stay at least a year or two, I want to play with you.'

“We joke about this topic again now. But Cesc is a grown man and only he can decide.”

Arshavin also feels that Arsenal's chances of lifting the Barclays Premier League trophy are still very much alive.

Both their title rivals, Manchester United and Chelsea, have done the double over the Gunners this season.

Arsenal closed the gap slightly in midweek thanks to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool and Arshavin insists they will keep fighting until the end.

“Experience tells me we should not get hung up (over recent defeats),” he said. “We have to train, to give 100 per cent in matches, then success is sure to follow.”

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