Cesc Fabregas could miss Sunday’s Premier League game against Chelsea with a hamstring injury – but Arsene Wenger will give the Arsenal captain until the last possible moment to prove his fitness.
Wenger also confirmed that Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen will certainly not travel to Stamford Bridge, having failed to recover from an Achilles injury, and Abou Diaby remains a doubt with an ankle injury.
“I don’t know about Cesc” said Wenger. “It looks a 50:50 but a 50:50 balancing on the negative side. I will find out on Saturday morning.”
Wenger conceded earlier this week that his captain had “little hope” of featuring against the champions, but it seems as though the World Cup winner will be given every opportunity to play.
Fabregas injured his hamstring in the process of scoring a freak goal against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago, when a clearance by Anton Ferdinand ricocheted off him and into the net.
Manchester United can draw level with champions Chelsea before the Premier League leaders even kick-off if they win away to Sunderland today.
Victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side against a team managed by United old boy Steve Bruce would see the Red Devils join Chelsea on 15 points.
And that would give the Blues something else to think about before their London derby against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, even though they would likely still be on top, such is their vastly superior goal difference.
But a United win at the Stadium of Light is anything but assured.
So far this season, Ferguson’s men have drawn each of their three away games in the Premier League, losing leads at Fulham and Everton and having to fight back to earn a point at Bolton.
“A lot has been made about us not keeping clean sheets but I haven’t seen us get opened up to make it a real crisis,” said United centre-half Rio Ferdinand, fit following a knee injury.
“We have been a little unfortunate and unlucky in certain circumstances, maybe even naive at points, but we haven’t been opened up in a manner that would make it a massive problem.”
United go into this match on the back of a 1-0 Champions League win away to Valencia, which suggests they are getting over their travel sickness.
But Bruce reckons Sunderland’s supporters can put a side of even United’s class and experience off their game. “With the crowd behind us, it can be like an extra man,” Bruce said.
Tottenham, also enjoying life in the Champions League after a midweek 4-1 win at home to Dutch club FC Twente, welcome an Aston Villa side rejuvenated by the arrival of French manager Gerard Houllier at White Hart Lane today.
Everton may be in a “false position” according to their Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta but the fact remains they are bottom of the table and are the only team in the Premier League without a win so far this season.
The Merseysiders face a tricky trip to Birmingham as they look to rid themselves of that unwanted record while Stoke face Blackburn, West Brom play Bolton and Wigan take on Wolves.
Blackpool, the surprise package of this season’s Premier League, will fancy their chances of causing fresh embarrassment to a Liverpool side that has won just once in the league so far this season when they make the short journey to Anfield tomorrow.
Liverpool’s goalless draw away to Utrecht in the Europa League on Thursday did not exactly suggest better days were around the corner.
Manchester City, who battled back to draw 1-1 against Juventus in European football’s second tier competition, are at home to Newcastle.