Sanchez, Cazorla in doubt for vital Olympiakos game

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez crashes into the advertising boards as Norwich's Ryan Bennett looks on. The Gunners are hoping that Sanchez has pulled his hamstring instead of tearing it, as this will involve a quicker recovery.
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez crashes into the advertising boards as Norwich's Ryan Bennett looks on. The Gunners are hoping that Sanchez has pulled his hamstring instead of tearing it, as this will involve a quicker recovery.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Arsenal are resigned to losing Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, two of their most potent attacking options, for the crunch Champions League match against Olympiakos next week.

The Gunners need to win by two goals - or 3-2, 4-3 and so on - to guarantee qualification for the knockout phase.

They have played the Greek team three times in final group matches since 2009 and lost them all - although they had already qualified on each occasion.

Sanchez limped out of Arsenal's 1-1 draw away to Norwich on Sunday. The club are hopeful that the Chile forward has pulled rather than torn his hamstring, meaning that he is out for weeks rather than months, while Cazorla has suffered a knee injury.

Sanchez was due to have had a scan yesterday once the swelling was reduced, thus providing Arsenal with a more detailed timetable for his recovery.

Other than the Olympiakos game, the club's forthcoming fixtures look relatively benign, with Sunderland and Aston Villa their next two Premier League opponents. But manager Arsene Wenger will be desperate to have Sanchez back in time for Manchester City's visit to the Emirates Stadium on Dec 21.

The 26-year-old first reported tightness in his hamstring after last week's Champions League win against Dynamo Zagreb, when Arsenal ensured that their hopes of qualifying would be decided by a must-win game in Greece.

Wenger has rejected suggestions that Sanchez should not have played at Carrow Road, pointing out that he was declared fit by the club's medical staff.

Wenger has also been irritated by claims that he has contributed to the lengthy injury list this season by overplaying certain members of his squad.

The club are without 10 first-team players as Laurent Koscielny was removed after 11 minutes against Norwich with a hip injury before the problems suffered by Sanchez and Cazorla.

The France defender is expected to return to training this week, however, and should be fit to face Sunderland. However, Theo Walcott is back in training after recovering from a calf injury and could return against Olympiakos.

Wenger's frustration is compounded by Cazorla and Koscielny suffering impact injuries rather than developing muscle problems that could have been caused by fatigue, and he thinks that he and his staff are being unfairly maligned.

Before Sunday's triple whammy, Arsenal were placed joint seventh in the Premier League injury table.

Since the start of the season, according to physioroom.com, they have had 23 injuries of all types. In the same period, City have had 35, Manchester United 30, Liverpool 24, Tottenham 20 and Chelsea 18.

Last season, United topped the serious injury table ahead of Everton, Newcastle and then Arsenal.

But no Premier League club have had more injures overall than the Gunners in the last 10 years.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Sanchez, Cazorla in doubt for vital Olympiakos game'. Print Edition | Subscribe