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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Fabregas expected to express desire to leave

Cesc Fabregas will return to training with Arsenal on Thursday and head straight for a meeting with manager Arsene Wenger.

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Fabregas was given extended leave after Spain won the World Cup in South Africa last month and is back at the club just 10 days before the Gunners begin their Premier League campaign at Liverpool.

The Spain international is expected to underline his desire to leave Emirates Stadium and return to Barcelona, who have courted his signature all summer.

Arsenal insist their captain is not for sale at any price, but by effectively handing in a transfer request it will be harder for the Gunners to hold on to their star man.

Wenger will look to at least follow the lead of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who managed to hold off interest in Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for an extra season before allowing him to move to La Liga. But any thoughts of Fabregas remaining in North London long term appear to be fanciful.

The 23-year-old is due to take part in an open training session later, with 10,000 supporters expected to watch the session.

Thomas Vermaelen acknowledges Fabregas is a vital part of the team.

"He is important to us because he is a very good player,'' said Vermaelen, at an event organised by London's biggest homeless charity Centrepoint. "I hope he will stay. In football you never know but I'm confident that he will.''

Fellow defender Bacary Sagna, meanwhile, is not fazed by Barcelona's attempts to lure Fabregas back to Spain.

"They can talk as much as they want but he is our player,'' he said. "I think it would be a big loss if he were to leave. It's up to him to show us what he can do now.''

And Theo Walcott is also confident that Fabregas will not be on his way. He told The Sun: Cesc's a big player for Arsenal so I'm looking forward to playing with him next season. He's one of those players who spots a ball no one else would. I've been texting him.

"I sent my congratulations for the World Cup and said what a great pass he made for the winner. After that he just needed a good mental break from it all. I'm looking forward to seeing him back. He's a fantastic player for us and our captain. After Spain's victory, it's a nice bonus to have a World Cup winner by your side."

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