Reyes injury forces Arsenal to pin hopes on Ljungberg

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The Independent Online

Jose Antonio Reyes is out of Arsenal's Christmas holiday programme after twisting a knee in training. The Spaniard had to sit out Sunday's hard-earned 1-0 win at Portsmouth which put Arsenal back in second place in the Premiership, within five points of the leaders Chelsea. He will also miss the Boxing Day home game with Fulham and the trip to Newcastle two days later.

Jose Antonio Reyes is out of Arsenal's Christmas holiday programme after twisting a knee in training. The Spaniard had to sit out Sunday's hard-earned 1-0 win at Portsmouth which put Arsenal back in second place in the Premiership, within five points of the leaders Chelsea. He will also miss the Boxing Day home game with Fulham and the trip to Newcastle two days later.

The 21-year-old has not been able to maintain his spectacular start to the season when he scored seven goals in 11 games, but he has shown signs of returning to form again recently with a fine strike to spark the 5-1 romp against Rosenborg in the Champions' League.

Reyes' manager, Arsène Wenger, who is also without his World Cup-winning midfielder Gilberto through a painful back condition until at least February, and centre-half Pascal Cygan with an ankle problem, must now hope that Freddie Ljungberg is given final clearance to return on Sunday after an attack of migraine headaches.

The Swedish international missed a third consecutive game last Sunday and has admitted coming back to training too early, but he is set to return today at the club's Hertfordshire base and should face Fulham after benefiting from an enforced rest.

Wenger confirmed: "Freddie had scans and there was a worry over him but he has been given clearance now and, hopefully, he will be fit for the Christmas games. Reyes' knee injury is not too bad but needs treatment and 10 days out. We are in a very important time now. Christmas is nearly as vital as Easter but there is a long way still to go in the championship.

"People tell me Chelsea look unstoppable but that is not necessarily my belief. Anybody can have a bad period as we had last month, because in the Premier League any team can beat any other. We are back in the race now thanks to the win at Portsmouth. It was very hard for us, but we were up against a good side who have beaten Manchester United and, in their last two games, drawn with Newcastle and Liverpool away."

However, Arsenal's France midfielder Robert Pires admitted that the Gunners did not play well at Fratton Park but hailed Sol Campbell's 75th-minute winning goal as the "most important" the England defender has ever scored.

Pires said: "It was so important that we won because we could not afford to fall further behind Chelsea. Even a draw would not have been good enough. Perhaps it will turn out to be the most important win of the season."

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