Arsenal first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was undergoing a fitness test on his injured finger on Friday to see whether he could take over from under-fire Lukasz Fabianski against Sunderland.

William Gallas misses the match and will be out for a further fortnight with a calf strain.

Abou Diaby is out with a knee injury and Alex Song looks set to return after also being sidelined with a knee problem.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie's return from ankle damage will not be until the end of April at the earliest according to manager Arsene Wenger.

Wenger believes UEFA need to overhaul the way they choose referees after accusing Sweden's Martin Hansson of being "incompetent".

The Arsenal manager also backed his under-fire goalkeepers and promised the club would support Fabianski following his two howlers which led to Arsenal's 2-1 defeat against Porto in the Champions League in midweek.

Wenger insisted Fabianski would play against Sunderland at the Emirates if Almunia did not come through his fitness test.

But Wenger trained his fire on Europe's referees after reiterating his view that Hansson was wrong to allow Porto's second goal on Wednesday after giving an indirect free-kick in the box following a back pass by Sol Campbell which goalkeeper Fabianski picked up.

Wenger said: "It has to be clarified first of all how they nominate referees for games. They (UEFA) have to be much more open on how they rate their referees.

"Where is the ranking of the referees? I believe too much has gone on in the last 30 years. What has happened is not good for football."

When asked if Hansson, who missed Thierry Henry's notorious handball in France's World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, should be refereeing at Champions League level Wenger said: "I trust the referees to do their job and to do it well. I never ask who the referee is before a game but in this case I cannot say that he made everything right because he was wrong.

"It's not my job to judge is he good enough or not, I just feel in that game he has shown he is not competent.

"He made at least five technical mistakes for a referee. He made a massive mistake. You cannot give a quick free-kick once the referee is in the middle of the action.

"Once he is there in the middle, where the free-kick is, he cannot anymore give a free-kick, he has to make sure the opponent is at nine metres distance.

"I believe he is incompetent or dishonest, so I prefer to believe he is not competent."

Sunderland could potentially be without six midfielders as they look to end a run of 12 Barclays Premier League games without a win.

Jordan Henderson (ankle), Andy Reid (hamstring), Lee Cattermole and David Meyler (both suspended) are all certain to miss the clash at the Emirates, with Steed Malbranque (chest) unlikely to play given he is still being monitored by the club's medical staff after being substituted during the draw with Portsmouth on February 9.

Fellow midfielder Kieran Richardson (calf) has resumed training but faces a race against time to be fit, with defenders Anton Ferdinand (ankle) and John Mensah (hamstring) also touch and go. Striker Fraizer Campbell should start on the bench after shaking off a hamstring problem.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is confident he still has the club's full backing despite his side's recent slide down the table.

Bruce, who arrived at the Stadium of Light last June, enjoyed success at the start of the season as his team won five of their first nine league games to foster hopes on Wearside of a possible run at the European places.

However, just one win since November has meant the Black Cats sit 13th in the table and three points away from the relegation places.

Bruce acknowledges such a prolonged loss of form brings extra scrutiny but is unmoved in his belief that the club's hierarchy are wholly behind him.

"I understand [the pressure]. I'm six months into the job and you do hope you are given time," he said.

"I said at the start I hope that the people I work for, and I'm truly convinced they are, are sensible enough to say 'hang on a minute let's judge the fella and give him a bit of time'.

"We need to win a game but I'm the same manager that got the club off to the best start in 35 years.

"Now we are on an awful run - it can happen, this is the Premier League."

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