Robin van Persie will make a welcome return as Arsenal look to overturn a 1-0 deficit in their Carling Cup semi-final against Ipswich.
Although the Championship side won the first leg at home thanks to a goal from Tamas Priskin, Arsenal head into Tuesday’s return leg at the Emirates as heavy favourites to progress to the final at Wembley on February 27.
Manager Arsene Wenger has included van Persie in his squad for the Cup tie, with the Dutch forward in a rich vein of form after netting a hat-trick against Wigan at the weekend.
And Wenger believes van Persie could prove to be the difference between the two sides at the Emirates Stadium.
“Robin is now completely sharp and fit and strong. He looks strong mentally,” Wenger said.
“Robin is an important player in our squad. He can finish, provide and the understanding with our offensive players is very good so, of course, he will be very important.”
Paul Jewell enjoyed his first win as Ipswich manager at the weekend courtesy of a 3-2 win over Doncaster Rovers, but still has a great deal of work to do to lift his side out of relegation territory.
Their last away match in a Cup competition ended in a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea in the FA Cup, a fact which will not be lost on the new manager.
Like Arsenal, Birmingham will need to come from behind in their semi-final against West Ham on Wednesday if they are to make it through to the final.
Carlton Cole scored a late goal in the first leg to give the Hammers a 2-1 win at Upton Park in the first leg, but Liam Ridgewell’s valuable away goal sets up an intriguing clash at St Andrews.
Birmingham were thrashed 5-0 by Manchester United at the weekend, and will need to bounce back quickly if they want to make their first Cup final since 2001.
West Ham were unlucky not to come away with all three points in their 2-2 draw at Everton on Saturday, and manager Avram Grant said it would be a ‘big achievement’ for the Premier League’s bottom side to qualify for the final.
“Wednesday represents a good chance to get to Wembley,” Grant said. “It would be a nice feeling to get there and we have a small advantage but it will be a tough game because it would be a big achievement for Birmingham too.”