Arsene Wenger said last night that Cesc Fabregas is out of Sunday's Carling Cup final and is a doubt for the second leg of the Champions League tie against Barcelona with the hamstring injury he suffered against Stoke on Wednesday night.
Asked whether Fabregas could return for the game against Barcelona a week on Tuesday, the Arsenal manager said: "It is very difficult to give a deadline. It is impossible." On Spanish radio, the player's personal trainer said that Fabregas had "a minor fracture", but added that he believed Fabregas would be able to play against Barcelona. Juan Ferrando said: "In principle, he has a micro-fracture and may play in the Nou Camp on 8 March without problems. Without doubt."
Earlier yesterday, Fabregas had said that he had not given up hope of playing against Birmingham at Wembley on Sunday. "Too long to [wait to] captain a final for Arsenal and I won't give up till [sic] the last second," Fabregas said via Twitter.
However, Wenger said that, although the injury was not serious he was not prepared to risk the player. "It is a very small injury but certainly Cesc will be out for Sunday," he told Arsenal's in-house television channel. "For how long [beyond that] I don't know, but definitely for Sunday. He is disappointed. We all feel sorry and sad for him. The only way we help him now is to win the Carling Cup as he contributed a lot in this competition."
The loss of Fabregas for the final comes after the club also had Theo Walcott ruled out with injury during Wednesday's game. Walcott will have a scan today on his twisted left ankle. The first signs are that the 21-year-old will be out for only a matter of weeks rather than months because the swelling around the affected area is not too pronounced.
"I saw him [yesterday] morning," Wenger said. "He has a classic ankle sprain. We don't think there is any more damage to it, but it is still a sprain. We are sad for him too. He is out for Sunday and maybe one or two weeks more."
Robin van Persie is expected to come back into the side. He has missed the last two games since the win over Barcelona with a hamstring problem. Laurent Koscielny should also be back in the side having suffered a back problem. Abou Diaby also returns having served his three-match ban for a red card against Newcastle earlier this month.
The Birmingham manager, Alex McLeish, said he hopes that Arsenal's failure to win a trophy since 2005 will play on their minds on Sunday. "They've not won anything for five years," he said, "and that has got to be at the back of their minds. I know that maybe they won't talk about that openly but I'm sure it will be at the back of a few of the players' minds. They'll see it as a massive opportunity as well – but I plan to celebrate my first tilt at a trophy in England by winning it."
Should Birmingham win, McLeish said it would be comparable to his successes as Rangers manager. Birmingham have not won a major trophy since 1963 and McLeish sees a win on Sunday as being at least as meaningful as the two Scottish Premier Leagues and two Scottish Cups he won during his tenure at Ibrox.
"It would be massive success in terms of the size of Birmingham as opposed to a massive club like Glasgow Rangers," he said. "The successes I had in Glasgow were against a fantastic Celtic team. They were two really good Old Firm teams that could easily have graced the Premier League without question."