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Ozil, Sanchez set to return for Arsenal vs. “direct rivals” Chelsea

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil


Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal is highly likely to have two of its top attackers available for the London derby against Chelsea on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates Stadium.

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Speaking to the press ahead of the clash, Wenger confirmed that Mesut Ozil will return and that Alexis Sanchez should also be available for selection provided he comes through the next two days of training unscathed.

“Compared to last week, we have no big problems,” Wenger said. “The good news is that Ozil certainly will be available and for Sanchez, the next two days will be decisive - but I think he will be available for selection. The signs we’ve had in training this week are very positive.”

Wenger, understandably, was cautious about throwing Sanchez straight back in as the Chilean forward has been recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered at Norwich City on Nov. 29.

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Sanchez, 27, played against the Canaries despite having reoccurring problems with his hamstring and Wenger came under fire for risking his star man. He won’t risk Sanchez on Sunday, but all signs point towards him playing some part for the Premier League leaders.

While Arsenal content for the title this season, their opponents from across England’s capital -- reigning champs Chelsea -- are just four points off the relegation zone and fired Jose Mourinho back in December with Guud Hiddink in temporary charge. The Dutchman is six games unbeaten in all competitions but too many draws have seen the Blues continue to slide down the standings.

Arsenal will be the overwhelming favorites on Sunday but they failed to beat Chelsea in the Premier League since Oct. 29, 2011. Wenger is not underestimating the Blues’s talented squad despite their poor form which sees them languishing towards the wrong end of the table.

“Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, it’s a big game because of the quality of the players on the pitch. It has big importance to us as well, because we play at the Emirates and we know how important it will be to win these games,” Wenger said. “They are not in the title race, but they are direct rivals because of the quality of their team.”

Chelsea’s fans know they aren’t going to win the title this season and even a top six finish seems a long shot. That said, they’d love to put a dent in Arsenal’s title hopes by going to the Emirates wining the always intense derby match.

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