Chelsea's Ancelotti says Arsenal fears Drogba
LONDON (Reuters) -- Brief news ahead of a busy schedule of holiday fixtures in the Premier League starting on Sunday:
* Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti believes Arsenal will fear Didier Drogba when the sides meet at the Emirates on Monday.
Drogba impressed during the second half of Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur and has been a thorn in the side of Arsenal, scoring 13 times in as many games against them. AdChoices
"I think that they are a little bit afraid about the performance of Drogba because he did very well against them," Ancelotti told Chelsea's website (www.chelseafc.com).
"But this cannot decide the game, though obviously if Drogba plays at his best we have more opportunity to win."
Fourth-placed Chelsea are without a league win since Nov 10.
* Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard will return for Sunday's trip to Blackpool, providing the Bloomfield Road pitch thaws out in time.
With Liverpool down in ninth place, Gerrard's return from a hamstring injury is a huge boost as they try to kickstart their season over the hectic Christmas and New Year fixtures.
"It won't be a headache to put Steven back in but it will require me to make a decision," manager Roy Hodgson said.
"It's a big boost going into five games in 15 days, which is a season-changing period for every club in the Premier League."
* Leaders Manchester United hope to have Nemanja Vidic and Anderson ready for the home game against Sunderland after recent bouts of flu while striker Michael Owen is in the squad having recovered from a long-term hamstring injury.
United will not have to worry about the threat of Danny Welbeck as the on-loan striker is not allowed to play against his parent club. Tough-tackling Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole is suspended after picking up five bookings.
* Tottenham Hotspur will go into Sunday's evening kickoff at Aston Villa with Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart fit to start after being out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Van der Vaart scored twice when Spurs beat Villa at home and his return is positive news for manager Harry Redknapp whose side are well-placed in fifth spot.
"We have to play three or four times in 10 days so it will be a hard time but also great, and I'm looking forward to it," Van der Vaart told the club website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).
Defender Younes Kaboul is also available along with midfielders Niko Kranjcar and Jermaine Jenas but experienced defender William Gallas is still out.
* Manchester City are without Kolo Toure for the trip to Newcastle United following his sending off in the 2-1 defeat by Everton on Monday. Manager Roberto Mancini will have Nigel de Jong available, however, after he served a suspension.
Newcastle's Joey Barton will be up against the club where he often made headlines for the wrong reasons.
"It's not the football club I left," he told the Daily Mail newspaper. "There's one or two still there but that amount of money changes everything."
* Arsenal will have goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski back for the visit of Chelsea on Monday with fellow Pole Wojciech Szczesny on the bench after impressing on his league debut against Manchester United.
Manager Arsene Wenger is still without Belgian central defender Thomas Vermaelen, however, after his return from an Achilles injury was put back until the New Year.
* West Ham United have recalled young striker Freddie Sears from a loan spell at Championship side Scunthorpe United as the Hammers attempt to climb off the foot of the table before the start of the new year.
The 21-year-old could be involved against Fulham on Sunday. "I'm happy to come home and be back at West Ham," he told the club's website (whufc.com). "This is a massive period with four games in eight days and hopefully I'll get a go."
* Bolton Wanderers have midfielder Mark Davies available for the home game against West Bromwich Albion after he was suspended for the defeat by Sunderland last week.
West Brom, who have won just two of their last 25 away games in the top flight, have striker Peter Odemwingie in the squad after he passed a fitness test this week.
* Blackpool will be without captain Charlie Adam after he picked up a fifth booking of the season at Stoke City earlier this month and is yet to serve the resulting one-match ban. Blackpool are also without Matt Gilks, Chris Basham and Billy Clarke with knee injuries while Marlon Harewood is doubtful with a hamstring strain.