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Arsenal-Sunderland Preview


STATS Senior Writer

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Arsenal's England internationals could be entering Saturday's Premier League visit to the Stadium of Light on an emotional high when they face Sunderland.

Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere both started Wednesday in a 2-1 friendly victory over Brazil at Wembley Stadium. Wilshere in particular was a commanding presence in central midfield.

"I felt that Jack did absolutely fantastically well," Walcott said. "There's a lot of players but I have to single out Jack being a fellow Arsenal lad. But he got man of the match today, he's an absolute threat, he keeps the ball and he's only 21 and he's had such a horrific injury but you wouldn't know that seeing him today."

After basking in the glory of defeating the record five-time world champions, the Londoners must make the difficult journey to the bitter cold North East to face a Sunderland side that could hand Danny Graham his first start with the Black Cats.

Graham made his Sunderland debut in last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Reading after joining from Swansea City. He could help boost a Black Cats attack that has been decidedly one-sided around Steven Fletcher, who has 10 goals - six more than any other player on the club.

"Fletcher has been unbelievable for us," defender Danny Rose told Sunderland's official website. "We've relied on him a lot this season and he's never disappointed us. Ten goals so far is brilliant for his first season.

"We've got Danny Graham in now; I think he got 14 goals last season for Swansea and he'll be great."

Arsenal are in sixth place on 41 points as they chase London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur as well as Everton for Champions League qualification.

"We know we cannot drop points anymore in any game and that's why we have to go for it in every single game," manager Arsene Wenger said.

Sunderland are in 12th place on 29 points. These sides opened the season with a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium on Aug. 18.

While the Gunners' England internationals shined, there could be injury concerns for their other internationals.

Aaron Ramsey did not play for Wales after suffering a calf injury in training while Laurent Koscielny was injured in France's defeat to Germany.

Thomas Vermaelen did not play in midweek for Belgium after he sat out last Saturday's 1-0 victory over Stoke City with an ankle injury.

Wenger handed Nacho Monreal his Premier League debut last weekend. The defender replaced an injured Kieran Gibbs, who is out for two to three weeks.

Martin O'Neill's Sunderland side have won two of their last eight league fixtures. The boss also did not have many of his players available for training, with 11 away during the week on international duty. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who did not play for Belgium in midweek, is joint-second in the Premier League with nine clean sheets.

The Gunners have three wins and three draws in their last six league fixtures against the Black Cats. Arsenal lost their last visit to the Stadium of Light, 2-0 in the FA Cup last year.

Updated February 7, 2013

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