Vermaelen may be back for Arsenal before end of season

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen has been given the all-clear to return to action after injury and is in line to appear for the Arsenal reserve team today at Manchester United.

The 25-year-old centre half has been missing since September with an Achilles injury, which required surgery in January. It had appeared unlikely he would play again this season. However, the Belgium international has made a swift recovery over the past month working with fitness coach Tony Colbert and the club are optimistic he could play for the first team again before the end of the season. A month ago, Vermaelen seemed a long way from returning. He said in March: "I don't know when I will be able to play again. It will not be in March. I'm not even yet back in training. This is a tough time for me."

Vermaelen's return from injury comes with Arsenal harbouring outside hopes of the Premier League title, with leaders Manchester United to come to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Defender Emmanuel Eboué said yesterday Arsenal must not be "scared" of United, who have won five of their past six games against the Gunners. "We need to respect them and play our football, don't be scared," he said. "Play our football and we will see after the game."

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