Arsenal continue to sweat on the fitness of Gabriel Magalhaes ahead of Sunday’s must-win game against Arsenal.
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After slipping further behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title following the champions’ victory over Leeds United on Saturday, the Gunners can ill-afford any more mistakes.
A visit to St James’ Park represents just about the most daunting trip in the top flight at present with Eddie Howe’s side in rampant form as they continue their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
Arsenal were soundly beaten on their last visit to the north east when they saw hopes of a top four finish go up in smoke amid a defensive injury crisis.
A year on and the picture is no healthier in that department for Mikel Arteta who is already without Takehiro Tomiyasu for the rest of the season, while William Saliba looks increasingly unlikely to feature again this term.
Rob Holding’s form, meanwhile, saw him dropped for Tuesday’s win over Chelsea during which January recruit Jakub Kiwior made an encouraging full debut.
The victory over their London rivals was tempered slightly, however, by an injury suffered by Gabriel who has started every game so far this season.
Arteta was hopeful that the Brazil international would be fit to feature but he was not pictured in training with the rest of the first team squad on Saturday.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Arteta said: ‘We’ll have to see tomorrow how he is, but he could not finish the game [against Chelsea] so that was obviously a big sign for us and we’ll have to see how he is tomorrow.’
On the chances of Saliba featuring again in the coming weeks, he added: ‘He’s feeling better every single day but he’s still not been able to have any activity around the first-team, so we don’t expect him to be with us [at Newcastle],” Mikel added.
‘It’s about the healing process. Pain-wise and with things that he can do now off the pitch, I think he is in a good place, but we have to build his capacity again to have the right impact, the right load and be in good condition to train and play for the team.
‘We are not yet [ruling him out for the season], because we are always hopeful and players are always pushing to play but if that is the case then we will announce that. Hopefully that will not be the case.’
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