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Mikel Arteta hoping for double fitness boost as Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace

The Gunners went into the international break on the back of a win at Aston Villa.

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (pictured) is hoping to have Bukayo Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu available at Crystal Palace (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (pictured) is hoping to have Bukayo Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu available at Crystal Palace (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (pictured) is hoping to have Bukayo Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu available at Crystal Palace (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is hoping for a double fitness boost ahead of their London derby away to Crystal Palace.

The Gunners went into the international break on the back of a win at Aston Villa which kept them in pole position to secure a top-four Premier League finish and a return to Champions League football.

Aaron Ramsdale missed the victory at Villa Park with a hip injury and was forced to withdraw from the England squad as a result.

He is almost certain to be unavailable on Monday night but Arteta may be able to call on Bukayo Saka – who scored the only goal to see off Villa – and full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Saka tested positive for coronavirus while away with the Three Lions, ruling him out of the friendly wins over Switzerland and Ivory Coast but is now back in full training at Arsenal.

“Bukayo is feeling good, he’s training today, hopefully he is still feeling as he was yesterday,” Arteta said on Thursday.

“I don’t know how much he would have played (with England). Sometimes when a player is in a good moment, you don’t want to stop it.

“It’s what it is, he had Covid and we had to take him out of the national team. He had some time to rest and to recover, but he will be training in the next few days to again hit the form he was in.”

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Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu (right) has been missing since January with calf issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu (right) has been missing since January with calf issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu (right) has been missing since January with calf issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Tomiyasu has been struggling with a two different calf injuries and has not featured since the second leg of Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool on January 20.

“I think it will be close,” Arteta said of Tomiyasu’s chances of playing at Selhurst Park.

“He’s been training more and more. He has the boys back now, so he will be joining some sessions this week and let’s see how it is.

“He had a recurring injury, but in the other calf, which was strange and difficult to predict.

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“He’s been through a lot in the last two years with all the Covid and the amount of games that he’s played.

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Saka felt he had been given a rough time by the Villa players (Nick Potts/PA)

Saka felt he had been given a rough time by the Villa players (Nick Potts/PA)

Saka felt he had been given a rough time by the Villa players (Nick Potts/PA)

“The transition to a different league with the intensity, it’s completely different. So we can find the right reasons and hopefully don’t go through that situation again because – especially for him – it’s been tough.”

Saka had gone into the international break having called for more protection from referees after feeling he was on the receiving end on a number of tough challenges during the Villa win.

Speaking after the game, Villa manager Steven Gerrard showed little sympathy for Saka’s comments, saying, “It’s part of the game”, that “physicality’s allowed” and that the winger would “learn quick”.

I think we have to protect our best players and that's in the hands of the refereeMikel Arteta

But Arteta defended Saka’s opinion, adding: “I think Bukayo said he was not going to complain, but he wanted some consistency in the refereeing.

“The only person who can protect the players is the referee because he guides the level of the game and the level of the contact and physicality that is allowed or not allowed in a football match.

“I think we have to protect our best players and that’s in the hands of the referee.”

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