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Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Wednesday, 13 April 2011 13:09 UK

Arsenal given Wojciech Szczesny & Johan Djourou boost

Wojciech Szczesny
Szczesny has established himself as Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper

By David Ornstein

Arsenal pair Wojciech Szczesny and Johan Djourou are set to return from injury for Sunday's visit of Liverpool.

Goalkeeper Szczesny has recovered from the dislocated finger suffered during Arsenal's loss to Barcelona on 8 March.

Djourou dislocated his shoulder against Manchester United on 12 March but like Szczesny he is back in full training.

Fellow centre-back Thomas Vermaelen is on the mend after an Achilles tendon operation and Arsenal are planning some behind-closed-doors friendlies for him.

It is unclear whether the Belgian will feature for the first team before the end of the season but he is said to be making impressive progress.

He in back in training and working pain-free, although he has yet to join in sessions with the first-team squad.

Vermaelen has not played since picking up the problem while representing his country in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Turkey on 7 September.

He underwent surgery in January and Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said in March that he would miss the rest of the campaign.

But the defender told Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws he had a "small" chance of returning this term.

"I can understand my manager when he says that my season is over - I have been out for seven months and I must fulfil a complete 'pre-season', so it's logical that he won't take risks," said Vermaelen.

"Time is ticking away. I must first get fit again, then gain rhythm. So I've still a long way to go. I can kick a ball as hard as possible but that's not my problem. I need to run without pain.

"After surgery, you soon become impatient. I'm a player they have to slow down - that's my problem. I felt a little pain but I had something in my head - 'I'll cope with it'. That's wasn't too smart, you can't beat nature.

"After a few weeks, I personally indicated that I had to slow down. It didn't feel that comfortable, as it feels these days.

"I always thought I would be out for six weeks [after the surgery]. That was what I was told. So I never could anticipate this long absence. Maybe I would have preferred that I knew from the start."

Meanwhile, Szczesny and Djourou are on course to feature in Arsenal's crucial Premier League match against Liverpool.

Szczesny has missed four matches since damaging the middle finger on his left hand but was given the all-clear following a scan last week.

After Sunday's 3-1 victory over Blackpool, Wenger said the Pole was "not far away" and he is expected to go straight into the starting line-up.

If he does, 41-year-old Jens Lehmann will drop to the substitutes bench - unless Manuel Almunia, who deputised for Szczesny until hurting a knee in the warm-up for the Blackpool game, is passed fit.

Djourou was initially expected to miss the rest of the season but his shoulder complaint is not as bad as first feared and he could start after three games out.

Arsenal have not lost a league game with him in the team since a 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on 22 November 2008.

The Gunners are seven points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United with a game in hand and, with United playing in the FA Cup on Saturday, Wenger's side can close the gap to four points with six games to go if they beat Liverpool.

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see also
Wenger hails 'competitor' Lehmann
10 Apr 11 |  Premier League
Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal
10 Apr 11 |  Premier League
Arsenal upbeat on Djourou injury
22 Mar 11 |  Arsenal
Arsenal confirm deal for Lehmann
17 Mar 11 |  Arsenal
Keeper Szczesny out for six weeks
11 Mar 11 |  Arsenal
Fabianski out for rest of season
03 Feb 11 |  Arsenal
Injured Vermaelen to have surgery
16 Jan 11 |  Arsenal

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