Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will check with Alexis Sanchez on his fitness

Arsene Wenger will ask Alexis Sanchez for an honest assessment of his fitness ahead of Arsenal's Premier League clash at Manchester United on Saturday.

The Arsenal boss said it could be a "suicidal decision" for Sanchez to play in Chile's World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay ahead of the match as he was struggling with a hamstring problem he picked up earlier in the international break.

But the 27-year-old started and played 84 minutes, scoring twice in the 3-1 win, and will not return to Arsenal's London Colney training base until Friday.

The game at Old Trafford, which will see Wenger come up against long-term adversary Jose Mourinho, kicks-off at 12:30pm on Saturday. Arsenal will go top of the standings if they can end their decade-long winless Premier League streak at United.

The Frenchman will talk to Sanchez to see whether he feels fit and ready to face the Red Devils, with the former Barcelona forward again pushing to play as Arsenal's central striker.

"I haven't heard a lot because we were in doubt 24 hours before the game against Uruguay," Wenger said about Sanchez's fitness.

"We didn't know if he'd play or not. In the end they decided to play him. He texted us to tell us he's in good shape after the game. He came off after 84 minutes and now we have to wait. I see him tomorrow morning and then I will see if he can be involved in the squad or not.

"What I will consider is the risk of injury because he played while recovering from a hamstring injury. I'll consider the way he feels as well. On that front you depend on the honesty of the player, how they feel and how they recover."

Asked about Chile's decision to play Sanchez, Wenger said he was happy to trust the decision taken by their medical staff.

"It's very difficult to make a definite assessment on that because I don't know how bad his injury was," he added. "You have to trust the medical people from Chile. I completely understand that Alexis wanted to play in qualifiers - they're not friendlies.

"Chile are not in a fantastic position to qualify for the World Cup and I understand that Alexis is keen to play for his country in such an important game. After that, it's a difficult period in November because it's the first time when some of the players have played many games."

While Sanchez is pushing to be involved, Wenger confirmed there would be no return for Santi Cazorla and also revealed Hector Bellerin faces a month on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

Cazorla has been missing with an Achilles problem and has not featured since the 6-0 Champions League win over Ludogorets last month, but Bellerin's issue came after a challenge late on in the north London derby draw before the international break.

"Hector is out for four weeks," Wenger said.

"He got injured in the last 10 seconds against Spurs after a very strong tackle by Danny Rose. Cazorla is still out. I don't know exactly how long for. He's still not even out in training yet."

With Arsenal able to go top and United looking for a win to keep hold of the coat-tails of the top four, the game itself will be an intriguing affair.

And Wenger is keen for all interest to remain on the pitch, rather than ramping up the relationship between himself and Mourinho - a man he has never beaten in the Premier League.

"You know, we didn't lose always - you present that," he said of his record against the ex-Chelsea boss.

"We have beaten them and there was many draws as well. I think I have won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition between two managers.

"It's between two clubs and two teams and I think I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it's not that that makes the audience.

"I think it's important that it's a top level game because that will be watched all over the world and for the reputation of the Premier League, it's important that the quality of the game is good. That will be down to the players who are on the pitch."


From Belfast Telegraph