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Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Wenger upbeat as big names return

Croatian international Eduardo has had to battle back from a horrendous injury

Arsene Wenger believes the return of Eduardo and several other big-name stars can prove "decisive" for Arsenal.

The in-form Gunners are through to the FA Cup quarter-finals and still in the running for Champions League glory.

"We are going into the final sprint. It is important to keep all our targets alive," said Arsenal manager Wenger.

"We know every game demands a big performance because we cannot slip up. Slowly, we have all of our players coming back and that can be decisive."

Arsenal have endured an indifferent season, finding themselves out of the top four in the Premier League as Manchester United took a firm grip on the title race.

The London club were well adrift of Champions League qualification places at one stage.

But the gap to fourth-placed Aston Villa is down to only three points and the future is starting to look a lot rosier for the Gunners, who are now unbeaten in 17 games.

After defeating Burnley 3-0 on Sunday to book a last-eight meeting with Hull in the FA Cup, Arsenal face Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday, holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg at the Emirates.

The especially pleasing thing for Wenger is that he will soon have the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky back from injury to boost his side's chances of finishng the season with a trophy.

England winger Theo Walcott made his return in the win over Burnley following four months out with a shoulder problem.

Nasri's Dentist
But the headlines went to Eduardo, whose career was under serious threat following a horrific leg break just over a year ago.

Captaining the side, the Croatian striker, 26, scored with a stunning volley to put Arsenal 2-0 up, hitting Alex Song's cross into the top corner of the net with the outside of his left foot.

"It looked like a bit of a 'beach' goal - and he meant it, he sliced the ball," insisted a delighted Wenger.

"Eduardo is a surprising finisher and an intelligent player. He has short back lift and understands what to do very quickly.

"I have never seen him do that before, his goal was instinct and shows you that finishing is all about what you do in a fraction of a second."

Wenger also heaped praise on Eduardo for the way he has come back from such a career-threatening injury.

"I didn't expect him to come back like that, it's a tribute to his personality," stated the Frenchman.

"He's never complained and that is a big example in our world."

Burnley boss Owen Coyle, meanwhile, was pragmatic about being beaten by the better side and looked ahead to the club's targets for the end of the season - notably, promotion from the Championship.

"I wanted the team to be positive," he said. "People pay good money to watch football and we have an obligation to send out our teams to attack.

"We have shown all season that we have good players. We now have 10 cup finals to get promotion - if we can play to our level, then we can do well.

"If we have got anything about ourselves, we want to be in the Premier League."

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see also
Arsenal 3-0 Burnley
08 Mar 09 |  FA Cup
FA Cup as it happened
08 Mar 09 |  FA Cup
FA Cup photos
08 Mar 09 |  Football
Arsenal 4-0 Cardiff
16 Feb 09 |  FA Cup
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal
23 Feb 08 |  Premier League

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