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Arsenal vs. Blackburn: match preview

Holloway vs. Samba.  Hey, there were no Arsenal-Blackburn photos available.
Holloway vs. Samba. Hey, there were no Arsenal-Blackburn photos available.

Kickoff: 12:30 PM EDT, Saturday, April 2
Emirates Stadium
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel

Arsenal welcome Blackburn Rovers to North London tomorrow for their 30th match of the Premier League.  The Gunners sit five points behind league leaders Manchester United with a game in hand, while Rovers are in 13th place on 33 points, but only a point and two goals safe of the relegation zone in an increasingly jam-packed league table. Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Alex Song, Abou Diaby, and Nicklas Bendtner are all available according to Arsène Wenger, but Aaron Ramsey has a slight groin problem and will miss out.

The Gunners won the reverse fixture in August at Ewood Park 2-1 on the strength of goals from Walcott and Andrei Arshavin.  Tomorrow sees the Premier League return [thank goodness], but the break hasn't been all quiet for most of the Arsenal players.  While some used the time to recover fitness, others were playing for their country.  Ramsey came away with a niggling muscle problem, which hopefully isn't too typical of his recovery from his broken leg, and van Persie got kicked on the knee and was in doubt until this morning.  Bendtner limped off with an ankle injury in Slovakia, but appears to be okay.

Many of the other players were involved in two rounds of international matches in Europe and Africa, but the latest of those was on Tuesday, so hopefully the players will all have had time to recover.  Arsenal have nine matches in which to mount their charge to the finish.  It would be nice if the team were able to put out their strongest XI possible for every match here on in, but long-term injuries to Johan Djourou, Wojciech Szczesny, and Thomas Vermaelen have prevented this for a bit now anyhow.

Manchester United play tomorrow at 7:45 EDT at West Ham, so Arsenal will go into the match knowing more about how the table above them is shaking out when they kick off up the street later in the day.

Possible lineup:

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Song, Wilshere, Fabregas; Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin.

Walcott could come off the bench, and depending on how Wenger feels about van Persie, Marouane Chamakh could start at center forward.