Flamini back but Giroud faces fitness battle ahead of Manchester United clash

Arsenal's midfield anchorman will return for Sunday's trip to Old Trafford after two weeks out but his fellow Frenchman needs to shake off a knee injury sustained in Dortmund
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Mathieu Flamini will return to the Arsenal squad for Sunday's trip to Manchester United but Olivier Giroud is the latest Gunner to be locked in a fitness battle, Goal can reveal.

Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Theo Walcott (stomach) are already both rated as unlikely to make comebacks in the Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

Goal has now learned that Giroud suffered a knee niggle in Arsenal's memorable 1-0 Champions League victory on Wednesday night away to last season's beaten finalists, Borussia Dortmund.

However, the striker, who has started all 16 of the Gunners' Premier League and European fixtures this season, scoring eight goals, is said to be confident of shaking off what is considered to be a minor injury.

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With Nicklas Bendtner the only other senior centre forward at the Emirates Stadium, Giroud is regarded as one of the most important players in Arsene Wenger's squad.

But the return of Flamini will at least give the manager some options in midfield after selecting the same team for the wins over Dortmund and Liverpool. Goal had revealed that Flamini would be out for two weeks with the groin injury sustained at Crystal Palace on 26 October and that he was targeting the United match for his comeback.

The Frenchman has been a revelation since returning to north London on a free transfer in the summer and he is expected to be in the reckoning for a starting place at the home of the Premier League champions.

Walcott has stepped up his training programme this week since undergoing surgery on a stomach injury in September but, barring any fresh injuries to first-teamers in the build-up to Sunday's match, is expected to be held back from first-team action until after the forthcoming international break.

Wenger will make a decision on Wilshere's availability in the next 24 hours. Although the midfielder was named by Roy Hodgson in the England squad for the friendlies against Chile and Germany, he is only considered to have an outside chance of being involved against United.

Wilshere is suffering from an inflamed ankle and Arsenal are wary of him aggravating the problem.

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