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Arsenal vs. Shakhtar Donetsk: match preview

Arsenal's third group stage match of the Champions League takes place tomorrow at 2:45 PM EDT.  The match will be shown on Fox Sports Net and (for subscribers).  A victory in the match would mean nine points for Aresnal in the table and almost certain progress to the knockout rounds.

Shakhtar have also won their first two group matches, and look certain to join Arsenal in the knockout rounds.  The match tomorrow and the reverse fixture in the Donbass Arena thus should more or less determine the first and second place finishers in Group H.

According to Arsène Wenger, Cesc Fabregas is fit, but may not start the match.  It seems a safe bet that if he does not start, he won't play at all unless the Gunners are chasing a point, simply because Wenger will no doubt want him as fresh as possible for Manchester City on Sunday.

Of course, the other major story is the return of Eduardo to the Emirates.  Wenger had much to say about the Croatian in his press conference, noting that he was a "little happy and a little sad" to see Eduardo again, because he "had the class of an Arsenal player" before his broken leg cost him a lot of progress and his place in the squad, ultimately.  Wenger praised his attitude and his hard work while at Arsenal.  Hopefully he won't hurt the Gunners with goals tomorrow.

Suddenly, Arsenal's injury list is looking much rosier.  Bacary Sagna, Fabregas ("doubtful"), Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Emmanuel Frimpong, and Aaron Ramsey are the only first teamers still out.  It wouldn't be at all surprising to see one or two of the guys who have been out so long get the nod tomorrow.  Manuel Almunia is supposedly fit again, too, but Lukasz Fabianski has been on a little run, and Wenger may want to keep his form going.  Possible lineup:


Eboué               Squillaci              Djourou/Koscielny             Gibbs


Diaby             Wilshere

Walcott                             Bendtner              Arshavin/Rosicky

But honestly, it's getting a little tricky to predict Arsenal's midfield choices.  Denilson or Samir Nasri could easily feature, perhaps the former more than the latter, as the Frenchman may need a rest.

Open thread tomorrow.