LONDON // Chelsea will be without Spain striker Diego Costa and Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard for the home derby with West Ham United on Saturday because of suspension and injury respectively.
Costa is banned after being sent off in last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Everton.
Hazard, who missed the game at Everton with a thigh problem, is again sidelined for the Premier League fixture with fifth-placed West Ham and has also been left out of Belgium’s squad for the March 29 friendly against Portugal.
“Eden has discomfort in a tendon in the muscle from his upper thigh,” Chelsea’s interim coach Guus Hiddink said. “It will be good for him to rest. When he starts in the Euro (2016 finals in June) it will be with better physical fitness.”
With Radamel Falcao, Loic Remy and Alexandre Pato working their way back to full fitness, Hiddink has challenged his three back-up strikers to prove they are worthy of selection.
“Falcao has had a very difficult time with injury,” the Dutchman said. “He has recovered... he has been training for 10 days with the first team.
“When we signed Pato [in January] we had a very difficult situation, the only competitive striker we had was Costa. We had Remy in troubled water.
“Falcao also, we have to see after the international break if he is fully competitive. We have to wait how he reacts to the more intensive training he is undergoing,” Hiddink added. “Everyone is getting fitter, that is the law of competition.”
With Chelsea also out of the Champions League and languishing in 10th place in the Premier League, their season is effectively over and Hiddink said some of the less experienced players could feature over the final weeks of the campaign.
“There are chances that younger players can get their opportunity but ... they need to knock on the door,” he added.
Rested City will have advantage over United: Pellegrini
Manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his Manchester City side will benefit from going into Sunday’s Premier League game at home to neighbours Manchester United with an extra 48 hours rest behind them.
City reached the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals by eliminating Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday while United were knocked out of the Europa League two days later by bitter rivals Liverpool.
“If you have 24-48 hours more rest it’s important, it’s not a decisive thing for the game but you can prepare better,” Pellegrini said on Friday. “That’s the problem with the Europa League. You play on Thursday, it’s not easy to prepare.”
Fourth-placed City are 12 points behind leaders Leicester City with a game in hand but Pellegrini refuses to rule out his team’s title chances.
“In football when you have a mathematical chance you cannot think you cannot do it,” the Chilean said. “It’s a winning mentality, win the next game and then see which team has the most points.
“A derby is always dangerous regardless of the position of both teams. United have a very good squad, it doesn’t matter which way they play they’re always a dangerous team.”
City defenders Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi were forced off in the first half of Tuesday’s game by injury.
Captain Kompany will be sidelined for around a month with a calf problem but Otamendi could be fit to return against sixth-placed United.
“Nico is running but it’s a risk if he takes another kick on the same leg,” said Pellegrini. “We’ll assess him on Saturday.”
Flamini out of Everton game
Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini will miss Saturday’s Premier League match against Everton and Santi Cazorla’s return from a knee problem has been delayed, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.
Flamini was forced off during Wednesday’s 3-1 Uefa Champions League defeat at Barcelona, while Cazorla, who was expected to return after the international break, has not played since the end of November.
“Cazorla’s knee is perfect but he has a little Achilles problem. That has slowed him down. Had he not had that problem he would be available now,” Wenger told a news conference.
“Mathieu picked up a hamstring injury against Barcelona.”
Arsenal are third in the table, 11 points behind leaders Leicester City, and Wenger said the team were looking over their shoulders at the sides below them after failing to win any of their last three league games.
Fifth-placed West Ham United are three points behind the Gunners, with Manchester United two further back.
“It’s very tight,” Wenger said.
“I believe the Premier League is far from over. We have to look behind us because things can change very quickly. I’m conscious of our position, even where we are now is not secure.”
Wenger described the game against Everton as hugely significant and admitted that a defeat would all but kill off his team’s title hopes.
“A negative result would be very bad for us. Now is the time for us to produce the result we need,” he added.
The manager also played down media reports that Arsenal were looking to sign Paris St Germain (PSG) striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is out of contract this year.
“We are not on that case. We have other worries at the moment,” Wenger said. “It’s short-term. We are not on Zlatan’s case.
“At the moment you can understand my priority ahead of Everton is not the transfer market or signings next season.”
FIXTURES (All times UAE)
Everton v Arsenal, 4.45pm
Chelsea v West Ham United, 7pm
Crystal Palace v Leicester City, 7pm
Watford v Stoke City, 7pm
West Bromwich Albion v Norwich City, 7pm
Swansea City v Aston Villa, 9.30pm
Newcastle United v Sunderland, 5.30pm
Southampton v Liverpool, 5.30pm
Manchester City v Manchester United, 8pm
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth, 8pm
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