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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mesut Ozil back as Arsenal set sights on Chelsea

Published 21/01/2016 | 11:11

Mesut Ozil is fit to return for Arsenal
Mesut Ozil is fit to return for Arsenal

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.

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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."

At his press conference ahead of the Chelsea game, Wenger said he saw no prospect of ground-sharing with local rivals Tottenham.

Chelsea and Spurs are looking to spend time at Wembley, with Stamford Bridge to be redeveloped and Tottenham's new ground next to White Hart Lane forcing them away for the 2017/18 season.

Milton Keynes is also an option for Tottenham but Wenger dismissed any suggestion it could be Arsenal who offer a temporary home to their north London neighbours.

"Not really," he said when asked if Tottenham could go to the Emirates.

"We suffered a lot to build this stadium and had to be very tight financially to pay it back. I don't know, but I don't feel it is in our plans to do it.

"We don't need it and we have not been approached for it as well. It's a board decision, not mine."

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