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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Metatarsal curse rules Van Persie out for six weeks

The irony was not lost on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after striker Robin van Persie was ruled out for at least six weeks with a broken foot.

Dutchman Van Persie, the team's leading scorer, sustained a fractured metatarsal bone scoring the equaliser after coming on as a substitute in Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Sunday.

However, Wenger's tactical decision has proved bitter-sweet with Van Persie now likely to be absent for a lengthy period just as Arsenal were looking to step up their efforts to chase down United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

'We have lost Robin van Persie for a while, how long I do not really know,' admitted the Gunners boss. 'It will be six weeks at least if not more. It is big blow, but we have to take it.

'Robin has been on fire he has had a great season until now. What is terrible for me is that I did not want to use him at all [against Manchester United].

'We were 1-0 behind and I decided to put him on - but he got injured and you can never predict that.'

Captain Thierry Henry scored a stoppage-time winner at the Emirates Stadium. He hopes the young Dutchman will enjoy a swift recovery.

'Robin has been playing tremendously well, so it is a big blow for us and a big blow for him,' said Henry. 'I just hope he can come back as quick as possible because he has been doing some great stuff for us this season.'

However, Arsenal have no time to worry about what to do in Van Persie's absence as they face arch-rivals Tottenham in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final at White Hart Lane tomorrow night.

Wenger insists his young Gunners have 'earned the right' to play in the match, having already beaten Barclays Premiership opposition at Everton and, in the last round, they recorded an astonishing 6-3 victory away over Liverpool.

'They deserve it,' said the Arsenal manager. 'It is very difficult to say `Listen you are good enough to play at Liverpool, but you are not good enough to play at Tottenham'. They have earned the right.'

Wenger told Arsenal TV Online: 'We are in a job where only quality decides whether you play or not.

'It is not how old you are, what you did before. Just on the day you have to turn up and show how good you are.'

England forward Theo Walcott is likely to return to the starting line-up tomorrow having been rested against United on Sunday.

Brazilian Julio Baptista will be looking to add to his four goals in the last round against Liverpool, while French striker Jeremie Aliadiere is another who is in contention.

Wenger confirmed midfielder Abou Diaby, 20, is set for a place in the side having now regained full match fitness following an horrific ankle injury sustained against Sunderland last May.

At 25, centre-half Kolo Toure is likely to be one of the oldest players in the squad should he again be asked to anchor the defence against Spurs.

The Ivory Coast international - who also faced Martin Jol's men in the 3-0 Barclays Premiership win during early December - said: 'Tottenham have a really good team and it will be a great tie, but we can definitely beat them with this side.

'The boys have showed they have the character to play against any team.'