21 Jan Ozil and Sanchez could be back in contention
Arsenal are in line for a huge boost ahead of Sunday’s derby against Chelsea as the Barclays Premier League leaders could welcome back both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
The struggling Blues visit the Emirates Stadium a massive 19 points adrift of Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, whose only win against Chelsea since 2011 came in the Community Shield in August.
A victory over Arsenal earlier in the season has been a rare high point in an utterly forgettable season for Chelsea, with the reigning champions having already lost nine league games this term.
After a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in September, Wenger’s side won their next five league games to get their title tilt back on track. Bar the odd blip, it has remained on course since then but back-to-back draws mean they only lead surprise package Leicester due to goal difference.
Arsenal have managed to set the pace despite having Sanchez out since late November, with Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck also out with long-term injuries.
Ozil has been Wenger’s player of the season so far but he was sidelined for last weekend’s draw at Stoke. However both he and Sanchez are likely to be back in time for the visit of Guus Hiddink’s side, with other players also getting close to a return.
“The good news is that Ozil certainly will be available,” Wenger said.
“Sanchez, the next two days will be decisive but, this time, I think he will make it for selection. Coquelin is back in full training today, ahead of schedule.
“Welbeck will be in full training next week. So those are positive news. Rosicky I think will play for the under-21s tomorrow night.
“A few players are coming back. We’re going into a very important period now, so to have people available is important for us.
“We have done extremely well during all this period when we had big players out, but it’s just a good opportunity to have everybody back.”
While Sanchez is back in contention after recovering from a hamstring problem suffered at Norwich, Wenger has been wary about throwing him back in but feels he is now ready for a return.
“The doubt is about him having been out for a long time, and the risk of a setback,” Wenger said.
“To be clear on all the tests is one thing. To be clear after training is another. But the intensity of a big game you can never replicate in training, but you can make the risk minimal.
“I’m cautious with him because we cannot afford a setback, which would mean a very long period out. We don’t want to take this risk. The signs he’s shown in training this week are positive.”