Wenger preaching caution over Cole

Arsene Wenger admits he does not want to rush Arsenal defender Ashley Cole back from injury.

The England left-back has been sidelined since injuring his thigh on his return from a broken foot in mid-January – which had been a first appearance after more than three months out.

While his team-mates were preparing for their Champions League clash in Madrid, Cole was playing for the reserves against Barnet, where he completed 68 minutes.

Wenger is all too aware though of the risk in returning the left-back too early, and would rather Cole, 25, get another run-out for the second string under his belt next week against Tottenham than rush to be involved in Saturday’s Barclays Premiership trip to Blackburn.

“It is difficult to say when he will return,” said Wenger.

“I am a little bit cautious with him at the moment because he had a few setbacks.

“He responded to the (Barnet) game with a lot of fatigue because he has hardly played in over four months – that is a lot to be at the top level.”

Wenger told Arsenal TV Online: “The plan with him is to play him on Monday night in the reserves and assess him after that.”

Following their stunning 1-0 victory in the Bernabeu which has put the Gunners in the driving seat to reach the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition, Wenger takes his squad to Ewood Park looking to improve on a return of only three wins from 13 away Premiership matches.

Rovers boss Mark Hughes has promised his side will not stand off and allow Arsenal the space in which to play as Real had done on Tuesday night.

Freddie Ljungberg was one of a number of Gunners who made the most of the extra freedom offered by the below-par Spaniards, but the Sweden midfielder will not be available this weekend after suffering a calf injury.

Veteran striker Dennis Bergkamp may return following a similar problem, while Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor gives Wenger another option in attack after being cup-tied for the European tie with Real Madrid.

“Dennis could be available, he has trained today and Emmanuel Adebayor will be available again but we have lost Freddie Ljungberg from Tuesday because of a calf problem,” Wenger revealed.

“We have not recovered Ashley Cole or Robin van Persie yet and all the other players are still injured.”

Jose Antonio Reyes showed few ill-effects of his badly-bruised lower leg and ankle when turning in a fine performance against Real, and with Van Persie still out as he recovers from a broken toe, the Spaniard will be keen to retain his place.

Youngster Theo Walcott could, meanwhile, make his senior debut at some stage after again being an unused substitute in the Bernabeu.

Sol Campbell, however, is still sidelined with an ankle problem, both he and Cole now highly unlikely to join up with England next week ahead of the friendly against Uruguay.

Kolo Toure produced another assured display following his return from African Nations Cup duty.

And the Ivory Coast centre-back has called on his team-mates to carry their fine away European form, which has now yielded four straight victories this season, into the Premiership clash at Ewood Park.

“It was really important to put in a performance like this at Real Madrid especially when you know we have had a hard time,” Toure said.

“It was a good response from the group and I hope that will help us to show our Arsenal spirit.

“We now need to do something good against Blackburn – we need to do the same thing in the Premiership as well.”

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