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Silvestre issues battle cry ahead of Boro

Battle-weary Arsenal must produce the response needed to show they can stay in the fight for the Premier League title with a result at Middlesbrough on Saturday, according to defender Mikael Silvestre.

The Gunners will have little recovery time following their midweek Champions League trip to Porto before they must head up to the north-east for the lunchtime kick-off at the Riverside Stadium.

Having recorded successive wins in the Premier League to haul themselves within eight points of leaders Liverpool, a much-changed Arsenal team went down 2-0 in Portugal and missed the chance to top their group ahead of next Friday's draw for the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition.

Nevertheless, defender Silvestre has called on the squad to refocus quickly and ensure the hard work of recent weeks, which included a win at Chelsea, does not go to waste.

"We know staying in the race for the title is vital for such a big club like Arsenal. We cannot go through the season without being in the battle to finish first, and we are back in it now," he said.

"It is never easy, and we have to travel again on Friday, but that is the way it is in modern football. You have to recover quickly."

Silvestre told Arsenal TV: "The Riverside is always a tough battle so we have to make sure we respond and get another victory.

"I am sure the players are focused and time will tell if we have learned the lessons of earlier in the season."

The Gunners could have several of their players back on Saturday after manager Arsene Wenger elected to take a depleted squad away in midweek.

Captain Cesc Fabregas (knee), Gael Clichy (hamstring), Robin van Persie (thigh) and Bacary Sagna (flu) could all return, along with striker Emmanuel Adebayor who was rested in midweek.

However, defender Kolo Toure (calf) and midfielder Samir Nasri (ankle) are still sidelined.

That means Emmanuel Eboue is set for another chance to win over the Arsenal fans, some of whom booed him during last weekend's win over Wigan Athletic at Emirates Stadium.

The Ivory Coast player, though, received a warm welcome from those supporters who had travelled to Oporto for Wednesday night's game.

Silvestre said: "Emmanuel showed great character and did not let himself down.

"He proved that he is good enough to play at Arsenal.

"Everybody goes through a difficult patch. Emmanuel was the target last weekend, but we have to all stick together and be behind everyone."

Middlesbrough's Justin Hoyte, meanwhile, looks set to miss the chance to face his old team - and potentially lining up against his brother, Gavin - because of a knee injury.

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