Hector Bellerin has made an earlier than expected recovery from an ankle injury to hand Arsenal a major boost ahead of their clash against Stoke City on Saturday (10 December).
The 21-year-old right-back was pictured training with the first-team on Friday (9 December) after Arsene Wenger had confirmed during his pre-match press conference that he could be available for selection following a test on Thursday. Bellerin was not expected to return for at least four weeks, which put him in the timeframe for the game against Manchester City next weekend, but his early return will ensure that he is close to full fitness for the clash against the title rivals.
The Spain international suffered ankle ligament injury during Arsenal's 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in November and has missed the last six games in all competitions. Carl Jenkinson deputised for Bellerin initially but was replaced by Gabriel Paulista in recent games after the Englishman struggled to cope with the pace following a lengthy injury absence.
The Brazilian defender has impressed in his new position and could keep his place for the game against Stoke City as Wenger could take a cautious approach with the Spaniard. The manger will not want to rush him into action ahead of the busy festive period coming up, and could use him off the bench or save him for the clash against Pep Guardiola's side next weekend (18 December).
Arsenal are looking to make it 14 unbeaten games in a row in the Premier League when they take on Stoke City. The Gunners are undefeated in the league since the start of the season, when they lost 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening weekend.
Stoke, however, have always caused the north London club problems especially during Tony Pulis' reign as manager. The Potters do not have a strong record away to Arsenal having never taken all three points in 35 years. Mark Hughes, who has completely changed their playing style since taking over, is confident they can end the hoodoo this time around, as they come into the game on the back of two consecutive wins in the league.