Fulham victory vital for Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Arsenal may be heading into the defining phase of their season with a plethora of injuries and on the back of some indifferent domestic form, but no one at Highbury is giving up the fight just yet.

With the England duo Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell still not-match fit, Gaël Clichy having suffered a setback and Lauren out for the rest of the season, it is in defence where their manager, Arsène Wenger, has seen his resources stretched.

The 1-0 defeat at Blackburn last weekend saw the Gunners slip back down to seventh in the Premiership following an eighth away loss of what has been a stop-start domestic campaign.

Before Arsenal next week look to defend the narrowest of margins earned from their brave Champions' League endeavours in Madrid, Wenger takes his men to Fulham knowing victory is vital to rekindle their hopes of earning another crack at Europe's élite club competition via a top-four finish in the Premiership.

Although the Gunners now have no games in hand on the sides above them - in fact, they have played more matches than both Bolton and West Ham - beating the Cottagers, who have lost just twice in the league at home, would nevertheless throw them back into contention, particularly if Tottenham and Blackburn draw at White Hart Lane.

Indeed, by the time of the final north London derby at Highbury on 22 April, the situation could look very much more positive.

And should the Gunners go on to win the Champions' League, they would return next season as holders to the potential detriment of the fourth-placed Premiership side, as decreed by Uefa in the wake of Liverpool's triumph last season after the Reds finished outside the domestic qualifying zone.

For now, though, the only thing on which the Arsenal squad are focused is picking up three points from their trip to west London.

"We are looking forward to the next game because we want to do well and we want to come back before the end of the season to be in the Champions' League," said the defender Philippe Senderos.

"We have been playing quite well in the Champions' League lately, but in the Premiership we have been unlucky away from home, when we have played quite good football but have not got the results," he added.