Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed returning striker Danny Welbeck to feature in next summer’s World Cup for England.
Welbeck has not played for Arsenal since suffering a groin strain in the Gunners’ defeat at Watford last month.
The 26-year-old was an unused substitute during Arsenal’s north London derby victory on Saturday but returned to full first-team training ahead of Thursday’s Europa League trip to Cologne.
Injuries have played their part in England manager Gareth Southgate only once calling-up Welbeck, who has featured in just 20 minutes of international football since March 2016, but Wenger is backing the former Manchester United man to add to his caps in Russia.
“I have a long experience and have known players who have won the World Cup, who in November had no chance to go to the World Cup,” said the Frenchman.
“I remember especially [Emmanuel] Petit for example in ‘98. He made it in March, April, May.
“Danny has the potential to go. If he is fit, he will go. I am convinced of that. The best way to go to the World Cup is not to think ‘I have to prepare for the World Cup’, it is to do well for your club and, after, you are automatically in the national team.”
Arsenal will finish top of Europa League Group H if they beat Cologne, having already qualified for the knockout stages.
Cologne are bottom of the group and also bottom of the Bundesliga with just two points.
Youngsters Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah have travelled with the squad but Wenger has said he will name an experienced squad for the fixture, with Olivier Giroud and David Ospina both available after recovering from injuries.