Fabregas concedes Arsenal title defeat

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The Independent Football

Cesc Fabregas accepts it is "not realistic" for Arsenal to think about winning the Barclays Premier League this season - but maintains his team can force themselves back into the top four.

The Gunners host Fulham on Saturday looking to score a first league goal since Robin van Persie's stoppage-time equaliser at Everton on 28 January.

While Arsenal may now be unbeaten in 14 games after the midweek Champions League win over Roma, their inability to convert chances has proved costly in terms of dropped points.

Three successive goalless draws has seen them miss opportunities to close the gap on the sides above and they are now six points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa. Meanwhile, any hopes of the Gunners overhauling the 17-point advantage held by champions Manchester United are all but extinguished.

Nevertheless, Fabregas - who has targeted the start of April for a return from a serious knee injury - insists Arsenal have what it takes to re-establish themselves in the Champions League places.

"It is not realistic to look at the league title now. You can never say never of course, but at the moment we would not be intelligent to be looking right to the top of the league," the Spaniard said.

"To be intelligent now is to go game by game and think about who is directly in front of us.

"Now we have to make sure we put a run of wins together and don't lose more points.

"Chelsea and Aston Villa will drop points, of that I am sure, and that is why we need to be ready to capitalise at the right time - just as Manchester United have waited half a season for Liverpool to lose some points and taken advantage of it.

"We need to be sure that we take the chances we will get to go above them because it is really important for next season."

Arsenal have played in Europe's elite club competition for more than a decade, reaching the final in 2006.

Fabregas maintains everyone is focused on achieving the goal of successful qualification once again.

"We always take things seriously, but now more than ever," he said.

"In 2005/06 we were really close to dropping out of the Champions League places and had to wait until the last game of the season and I am telling you it is not easy.

"Nobody wants to see Arsenal outside the top four, so we need to stick together. We want to survive this and we will."

Fabregas, who won the 2008 European Championships with Spain, suffered knee ligament damage after a challenge with Liverpool's Xabi Alonso in the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium on December 21.

The midfielder's rehabilitation was being conducted under the guidance of a specialist in Barcelona, and the 21-year-old has now returned to the Gunners' Hertfordshire training complex to put the finishing touches to his recovery - which could be just in time for a potential Champions League quarter-final and FA Cup semi-final in mid-April.

In his absence, there have been several midfield partners for young Brazilian Denilson.

Abou Diaby returned from a thigh injury to start against Roma on Tuesday night, only to then pick up a calf problem.

However, the Frenchman is likely to be available for the weekend.

New signing Andrei Arshavin will expect to return to the starting XI, most probably on the right in place of Emmanuel Eboue, after he was ineligible for the midweek European tie.