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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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By ESPN Staff

Van Persie to miss first leg of Man Utd semi

Arsenal could see their defence boosted by the return of goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and Johan Djourou this weekend - but the Gunners will head into the Champions League semi-final clash against Manchester United without leading scorer Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman, who has hit 17 goals this season, continues to be troubled by a groin problem which saw him miss the midweek 4-4 draw at Liverpool and will not feature in Sunday's Premier League game with Middlesbrough at Emirates Stadium nor the first leg of the European tie against the holders.

Manager Arsene Wenger, though, hopes van Persie will be fit by the time United come to London on May 5.

There was more positive news on Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who could face Boro following a minor hamstring concern, while Almunia (ankle) and Djourou (knee) could both be back to bolster what Wenger accepts has been a ''fatigued'' defence.

''We will rotate a little bit again, but we have no major injuries from Liverpool,'' said Wenger. ''Manuel Almunia was in full training on Thursday and we will see how he responds. Djourou was in full training also so we will see how he is too. Both could come back into the squad.

''It is not enough training to say [for sure] yet, we need 48 hours more. Emmanuel Adebayor should come back into training on Saturday. He could be in the squad.

''But Robin van Persie is definitely out for Sunday and for Manchester United.

''Gael Clichy could be back for the second Manchester United game. ''He has a scan [on his back] on Monday. We will go from there. He has a chance to be back in full training next week.''

With van Persie and Adebayor both struggling for full match fitness, Nicklas Bendtner was asked to spearhead the attack at Anfield.

While Bendtner - who has hit 12 goals - was not on the scoresheet during an amazing game, he worked hard and saw one fine finish ruled out by a somewhat dubious offside flag.

Bendtner admits there have been spells this season where he ''could not put a foot right'', but the youngster has never questioned his determination to succeed.

''People have not seen everything yet - there is a lot more to come and when people realise that, things will become even better,'' Bendtner said. ''I feel more part of the starting 11 this season than last and I feel I have improved all over my game.

''We had a down period - me personally as well - but it makes people stronger, more determined and focussed.

''That is exactly what it has done with me and I have been playing better since then.''

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