Thomas Vermaelen to return to Arsenal starting XI for Champions League clash against Marseille but Alex Song faces late fitness test

Belgium international likely to fill in at left-back in rejigged Gunners defence for his first group game in two years, while Emmanuel Frimpong is on standby to replace Song
By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent

Thomas Vermaelen will return to the Arsenal starting line-up against Marseille on Tuesday night and make his first Champions League group stage appearance for two years, can reveal.

But manager Arsene Wenger could be without Alex Song, who has been troubled by a calf injury and will have a late fitness test today. Emmanuel Frimpong is on standby to replace the Cameroon international.

Wenger will once again rejig his defence as he attempts to shore up a backline that has leaked 21 goals in 10 Premier League matches.

Vermaelen is likely to be accommodated at left-back, with Laurent Koscielny, outstanding against Chelsea last Saturday, retained alongside Per Mertesacker at centre-half. understands that there will be no place in the starting XI for fit-again Carl Jenkinson, who will take his place among the seven substitutes.

This raises the possibility that Arsenal will field four centre-halves at the back, with Johan Djourou once again used as a makeshift right-back.

Vermaelen returned to the Arsenal team for the League Cup win over Bolton Wanderers last week after recovering from surgery on his achilles. He was an 88th minute substitute against Chelsea at the weekend but has not started a Champions League or Premier League match since the Champions League qualifier win against Udinese in August.

He has occasionally lined up in training at left-back, a position he often filled at former club Ajax before his move to Arsenal two-and-a-half years ago.

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