Thursday 22 March 2018

Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Diego Costa set to return for Arsenal clash

Diego Costa
Diego Costa

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are in contention to play for Chelsea at Arsenal after returning to training following injury.

Playmaker Hazard has missed the last three matches with a groin injury sustained at Crystal Palace, while striker Costa sustained a bruised shin in last Saturday's last-gasp draw with Everton.

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink said: "The last two days he (Hazard) was in full commitment with first-team training, so he is available. "We have to be careful, because he has fallen into some injuries recently. I'm not sure whether he can play a full 90 minutes yet. We have to consider whether it's best (for him) to start or to come in."

Costa had scans immediately after the draw with Everton, with the results showing no fracture and just bruising. The Brazil-born Spain striker returned to training on Thursday.

Hiddink added: "He (Costa) was in yesterday. He was in today. So he will be available as well." Costa was chief antagonist in September's clash at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 2-0 to extend their unbeaten Premier League run against the Gunners to eight games.

Jose Mourinho lauded his performance, while Arsene Wenger described his behaviour as "unacceptable". The striker riled Gabriel so much the Gunners defender was sent off, but Costa was retrospectively banned for three games by the Football Association for grappling with Laurent Koscielny in the same game.

"That's the past," Hiddink said. "I haven't seen the images." Hiddink told Costa to focus on playing football on Sunday. "I cannot guarantee, because we're not dealing with machines, we're dealing with human beings, but when he is focusing on where he's good at, around the box, then he's of big worth," the Dutchman added.

Hiddink has not spoken to Costa specifically about his temperament. "I don't have any complaints about his discipline," Hiddink said. Chelsea's defeat of the Gunners was their first home win of the season and one of the few highlights to date of a chastening campaign.

Hiddink concedes the rivalry is lessened by the Blues' lowly 14th place in the Premier League, 19 points behind their derby opponents. Asked whether the level of the rivalry remains, Hiddink said: "Not at this moment, not in this league.

"Arsenal are doing very well and making a good battle for first position. And Chelsea are way down under at this moment. Reality." Arsenal have been strengthened by the arrival last summer, from Chelsea, of Petr Cech.

Chelsea captain John Terry said the goalkeeper, who was permitted to move after being displaced as first choice at Stamford Bridge by Thibaut Courtois, would be worth 12 to 15 points this season for the Gunners.

"He's doing very well," Hiddink said. Adidas, Cech's glove sponsor and Chelsea's kit supplier, appeared this week not to have realised the goalkeeper had moved on after 11 years, sending his gloves to the Blues' Surrey training base.

Cech collected his gloves in person from Hiddink, who managed the goalkeeper during his first caretaker spell in 2009. Hiddink, smiling, said: "I was here when Petr showed up. It was nice. We had a chat. Almost everyone was gone, it was late (on Wednesday) afternoon.

"We tried to hide them, which he did not accept. We tried to make them a little bit slippery, but he discovered that also."

Press Association

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