Football: Oezil and Sanchez return for Arsenal

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil (centre) and striker Alexis Sanchez (right).
Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil (centre) and striker Alexis Sanchez (right). PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Arsenal's title challenge is set to be bolstered by the return of Mesut Oezil and Alexis Sanchez from injury this weekend as Arsene Wenger's side seek to break down a psychological barrier by securing a first league win over Chelsea in almost five years.

Oezil missed Sunday's draw at Stoke City with a bruised toe but will start against the champions, with Wenger also hoping Sanchez can feature at some stage for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury at Norwich at the end of November.

The Chilean will be monitored over the next few days, with Wenger anxious to avoid risking a relapse, but should play some part at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal have been further heartened by Francis Coquelin's return to full training a month early after a knee problem.

"The good news is that Oezil certainly will be available and, for Sanchez, the next two days will be decisive though, this time, I think he will make it for selection," said Wenger.

"Francis Coquelin is also back in full training today, ahead of schedule, and Danny Welbeck will be in full training next week (having been absent since last April). So those are positive news.

"A few players are coming back. We're going into a very important period now, so to have people available is important for us.

"The forwards give you goal-scoring (potential) and, as well, I think sometimes in games when you have 70 minutes gone and you have a strong bench, it gives you a big chance to win the game."

Arsenal, who are top of the table on goal difference, hope to make amends for their 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge by Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in September. Wenger's side, who are the only team to have beaten Leicester at the King Power Stadium in the league this season, have made their mark against Manchester City and Manchester United this term and are keen to wound the champions.

"It is another opportunity where we can show we have moved forward," said Wenger.

"Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, look at their squad. It's a big game because of the quality of the players on the pitch. They are not in this title race, no, but they are direct rivals because of the quality of their team."

Chelsea, 19 points adrift of the Gunners, could yet strengthen their squad. According to the Times, the Blues have agreed a three-year contract with Alexandre Pato, the Corinthians and Brazil striker, worth about £35,000 (S$71,100) a week after tax.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Oezil and Sanchez return for Arsenal'. Print Edition | Subscribe