Pires expects to be ready for Bayern

Last updated at 15:20 07 March 2005

Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires has declared himself fit to face Bayern Munich in their crucial Champions League return leg at Highbury on Wednesday night.

Arsenal are 3-1 down from the opening leg in Germany and manager Arsene Wenger feared he would be without the France star when he was carried off on a stretcher with an ankle injury following a tackle by Southampton's David Prutton during the 1-1 Premiership draw nine days ago.

But Pires is set to join in a full training session in the next two days as Arsenal prepare for a game they have to win at least 2-0 to stand any chance of reaching the last eight.

Pires said: "I am confident I will be fit. It has been a tough week for the club and it is also a good week, with the FA Cup win at Sheffield United and the league win over Portsmouth on Saturday."

His return to fitness will be a much-needed boost for Wenger who is without defenders Pascal Cygan and Sol Campbell through injury and also has doubts over the fitness of Brazilian midfield man Edu. He aggravated a hamstring during the first leg two weeks ago.

But if Edu is considered fit enough to play then, along with the return of Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Reyes, Robin van Persie, the Gunners will have the necessary strength to cause Munich problems.

Pires believes Arsenal must aim to win all three of the competitions they remain involved in.

He said: "That has to be the approach. I have to say the title race is not over because you never know what can happen. Against Bayern we have a very difficult task but we know we can do it and Bayern know we can do it. What we have to do is attack with the brain, not the heart.

"Everybody knows that everything is possible with Arsenal. It will be very difficult in the Premiership, very difficult in the Champions League and in the FA Cup. We always have a lot of problems at Bolton but all we can do is give everything and see what that brings."

Meanwhile defender Lauren claims their defence will be the key element of the return leg.

Arsenal need to be at their best to prevent Munich adding to their advantage but Kolo Toure's goal has given the Barclays Premiership champions a glimmer of hope.

Lauren said: "Kolo's goal in Munich has given us hope. To win by two goals is not impossible, especially at home, and I think we can do it.

It's difficult, of course, but we have players in the team who are used to playing in difficult situations, in high pressure matches. This is one of those games.

"One reason I think we can do it is that I wouldn't say the game in Munich was one in which the opposition played fantastically and didn't let us do anything.

"No, it was more that we dropped our level and didn't play well. We have to put that right. I feel the defence will be very important on Wednesday. We always know that we are dangerous going forward and can score the goals we need, so the defenders have a big part to play. We are very conscious of that and will be focused on not conceding."

Lauren was axed after the defeat in Munich with Toure moving to right-back for the league game at Southampton.

However, he returned for the FA Cup win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, scoring in the penalty shoot-out and if the tie should produce a similar spot-kick decider, Lauren's accuracy should give Arsenal the inspiration they need.

He has scored in all six shoot-outs he has taken part in - two African Nations' Cup finals, Olympic semi-final and final, Community Shield and the FA Cup fifth-round replay at Sheffield United - as well as two penalties against Tottenham in the Premiership.

Lauren added: "I wait until the last moment before deciding what to do. But to do that, you have to be very confident. It's not easy to do that, even more so in front of the away fans.

"Of course, anyone can miss but the more confident you are, the more chance you have to score."

The Arsenal defence will be cheered by the absence of Munich's star striker Roy Makaay in the return leg. The Dutch striker tore muscle fibres in his right thigh in the 88th minute of Bayern's 1-0 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Makaay, 29, Bayern's top scorer in the Bundesliga with 12 goals and with seven in the Champions League, was carried off on a stretcher and is out for a fortnight.

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