Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced Aaron Ramsey will be able to cope with a daunting return to the scene of his horrific double leg-fracture when the Gunners travel to Stoke City tomorrow. The Wales captain, 20, had his career put on hold in February last year when a challenge from Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross left him with two fractures.
Ramsey only returned to the Arsenal first team in March this year following loan spells in the Championship with Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City, but with captain Cesc Fabregas currently out injured, Wenger confirmed he will be in the starting line-up at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
"Aaron is 20 years old and has a long career in front of him so the earlier he plays again at Stoke, the better it is," Wenger said. "The only thing that is important is to focus on playing well within the team and to win the game. When you have the ball you try to make a pass, when you do not you try to win it back and you do not look who is against you or what happened two years ago."
Arsenal know they must win the game to have any chance of winning the Premier League, although Wenger concedes that is extremely unlikely given that leaders Manchester United are six points ahead with only nine more available. But United play Chelsea, who are three points behind them and three points ahead of the Gunners, so a Chelsea victory would keep it open for all three rivals.
"It is a little chance, yes," Wenger admitted. "At the moment we have a five per cent chance. The most important thing is for us to do absolutely everything to be in there as you never know. But of course we need Chelsea to win and the two teams still to drop points after that. We need exceptionally positive circumstances that have not been the case so far this year.
"I do not want to have any regrets. There is very little chance that it will happen but I do not want to come out of the season thinking that if we had won at Stoke and our last three games, we would have made it. I don't live in dreamland, I live in a realistic world, but I live also in a competitive world and real competitors fight until the end."
Shawcross, who sent a goodwill message to Ramsey soon after last year's mishap, knows he will be targeted by the Arsenal fans. "I got booed and abused when I went there and it didn't really affect my game," he said, referring to Stoke's 1-0 defeat in London in February this year. If anything, it spurred me on to play better. I'm sure I'll get more of the same this time, but I'll deal with it."
Stoke forward John Carew has declared he is keen to impress against Arsenal to have a chance of making the Potters' FA Cup final side, with the Norway international having seen Jon Walters and Kenwyne Jones form a partnership while he was recovering from a back strain.
"I've scored the winner against Arsenal a couple of times and it would be nice to do it again," he said. "It's been very frustrating, being injured over the last couple of months, especially because I thought I had been doing well."
Stoke play Manchester City at Wembley in the final on Saturday 14 May.