Football: Arsenal ready to end Blues jinx

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Oezil is expected to play against Chelsea after missing last week's clash with Stoke City with a minor foot problem.
Arsenal playmaker Mesut Oezil is expected to play against Chelsea after missing last week's clash with Stoke City with a minor foot problem.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

With Oezil, Sanchez likely to play, Gunners hope to maintain EPL lead by beating city rivals Chelsea

LONDON • With Jose Mourinho gone and Chelsea languishing, English Premier League leaders Arsenal have an opportunity to assert their supremacy over their London rivals in today's encounter at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger managed just one win against his former Chelsea counterpart Mourinho in 15 attempts, and that came in this season's Community Shield.

Mourinho also took special delight in goading Wenger, whom he labelled a "specialist in failure".

But the Portuguese is out of the picture following his sacking last month and, with Chelsea 19 points off the pace in 14th place, Arsenal have a chance to hammer home their advantage.

"Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, look at their squad," said Wenger, whose side lead Leicester City on goal difference at the top of the league.

"It's a big game because of the quality of the players. It has a big importance to us as well. We play at the Emirates and we know how important it will be to win this game."

  • 16

  • Number of Premier League assists dished out by the returning Mesut Oezil this season

Arsenal have already beaten Manchester City, Manchester United and surprise contenders Leicester this season, and victory over Chelsea would further enhance their title credentials.

It would also bring a satisfying conclusion to a run of matches against teams who have tended to give Arsenal problems during the Wenger era.

Wenger has been buoyed by the news that key attacking players Mesut Oezil and Alexis Sanchez could both return from injury today.

Oezil is expected to start after sitting out the trip to Stoke City with a minor foot problem, while Wenger is hopeful that Sanchez will play some part after nearly two months out with a hamstring injury.

Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink also had positive news on the injury front, revealing on Friday that Eden Hazard could feature after missing three games owing to a groin problem.

Striker Diego Costa is fit, too, despite bruising his shin in their 3-3 draw with Everton last week, and can expect a choice reception after goading Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista into kicking him in September's fixture, which saw the Brazilian sent off.

The Everton draw had extended Chelsea's unbeaten run under Hiddink to six matches but, having drawn four of their five league games under the Dutchman, he is eager for them to start putting victories on the board.

"We want full results," Hiddink said.

"We can't be patient, saying we'll get better in four weeks. No. We have to perform now. We'd like a result at the Emirates."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ARSENAL V CHELSEA
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'ARSENAL READY TO END BLUES JINX'. Print Edition | Subscribe