Danny Welbeck could return to the Arsenal starting lineup as part of an experienced team set to take on FC Cologne in the Europa League on Thursday night (23 November) and Arsene Wenger is certain that the injury-prone striker will go to next summer's World Cup, provided he can stay fit.

A valuable contributor for both club and country when available, Welbeck has been restricted to only 76 appearances across all competitions since joining the Gunners from Manchester United in 2014 and previously saw successive campaigns ruined by two major knee injuries.

The 26-year-old netted three goals during an impressive start to the 2017-18 season before being sidelined for four matches as the result of a groin injury that forced him out of the goalless draw at Chelsea in September.

He managed only 61 minutes on his return against Watford before limping off with a hamstring issue.

Welbeck returned to the Arsenal squad for the first time in five weeks at the weekend, remaining an unused substitute as the FA Cup holders cruised to a comfortable 2-0 north London derby victory over rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

He will now be hoping to start against Cologne after participating in training at London Colney before Wednesday's flight to west Germany, particularly with Europa League regular Theo Walcott expected to remain sidelined through illness.

"For me he is a striker who had top physical qualities," Wenger, who replied "yes" when asked if Welbeck could start, told reporters at his pre-match press conference. "He is a team player as well. He is top-class striker and on top of that he is loved by everybody in the squad. If he is fit he will go to the World Cup, I'm convinced of that."

Welbeck had not featured for England since March 2016 when he was called up by Gareth Southgate in August and came off the bench to net in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Malta before also appearing as a late substitute in the home tie against Slovakia.

However, injury prevented him from being drafted in for final qualifiers with Slovenia and Lithuania and the recent friendly double-header against Germany and Brazil.

Undefeated Arsenal visit Cologne having already qualified for the last 32 with two matches to spare and knowing that a point against the side currently occupying bottom spot in both Group H and the Bundesliga would be enough to clinch top billing.

While Walcott will remain out along with long-term absentee Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud returned to training on Wednesday morning and has travelled after missing the Tottenham clash with a thigh strain suffered on international duty with France.

Defenders Calum Chambers and Rob Holding should also be involved, while fit-again deputy goalkeeper David Ospina will reclaim his Europa League starting role from third-string option Matt Macey, despite the latter's impressive display in the goalless draw with Red Star Belgrade.

Wenger confirmed that Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah are among the youngsters to have made the journey to RheinEnergieStadion, although pledged to play an experienced team tomorrow evening.

"We have brought some young players as well who have played in former games and done extremely well, like Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson," he added. "Overall I believe we have a good mix between experience and young players.

"We have an experienced team. Overall I believe that you will see that every single player has a big experience in the Premier League."

Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck could make his first Arsenal appearance for more than five weeks in Cologne IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images