Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Per Mertesacker will not be available to play in Arsenal's opening Champions League game against Dinamo Zagreb.
The Gunners travel to Croatia this Wednesday in what represents an important game in their bid to escape a group that will almost certainly be won by Bayern Munich.
Now, Wenger has confirmed that their task will be made that much tougher after ruling Mertesacker out. It will be the fourth game the German has sat out as he continues to recover from a viral infection.
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Several reports suggested that the 30-year-old would be available for last weekend's game against Stoke City, but Wenger instead chose a centre-back pairing of Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny.
Having spent the international break resting, many expected Mertesacker to have made a full recovery by now, but Wenger insists the serious condition is still affecting his vice-captain.
Wenger told reporters: “Mertesacker was in bed for 18 days — not tired, he had a chest infection. It was a serious condition, a viral thing, and he is not ready to play.
“I believe at the end of the week he should be much better. Every day he is getting stronger. He is training, but when you are out 18 days with an infection, you start from zero.”
A chance for Gabriel
It means Gabriel is likely to get another chance to impress at the back alongside Koscielny. The Brazil international is yet to establish himself ahead of Koscielny or Mertesacker but has thoroughly impressed in the German's absence.
He may, however, face a ban if the FA decides to do anything about the stray elbow that happened to hit Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic in the face. The referee failed to spot the incident, leaving Gabriel exposed to retrospective action.
Should he be found guilty of violent conduct, the defender is likely to face a three-game ban, possibly ruling him out of Saturday's game against Chelsea. If Mertesacker is still unfit, Calum Chambers is likely to deputise at Stamford Bridge.
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