Arsenal will remain without Alexis Sanchez for their upcoming Premier League trip to Liverpool on 13 January, although Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he is very close to making his first-team return. The Chile international has not featured for club or country since limping out of a 1-1 draw at Norwich in late November with a hamstring problem, but is likely to play some part against Stoke on January 17.
"Liverpool will come too soon for Alexis Sanchez but he may be back for Stoke," the manager was quoted as saying by the Mirror during his latest pre-match press conference. "If you listen to Alexis, he's always keen to play even when injured.
"We try to be cautious, but with a muscular injury you never know how big the risk is. "[But) he's very, very close."
Leaders Arsenal currently sit two points clear of Leicester and three ahead of Manchester City as they seek to claim their first top-flight title since the 2003/04 season. They travel to Anfield on the back of a comfortable 3-1 victory over Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup, a match in which Wenger opted to leave out the likes of in-form playmaker Mesut Ozil and combative midfielder Mathieu Flamini following a busy festive period.
Both of those players are set to return to the squad for the clash with injury-hit Liverpool, although the status of David Ospina remains uncertain. The Colombian international recently missed out on the chance to make a first appearance since his dreadful own goal contributed to a shock 3-2 defeat against Olympiacos in September. The club described his problem as a minor groin injury.
"Ozil and Flamini will be available," Wenger added. "Ospina faces tests after not being available on Saturday."
Long-term absentees Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck remain unavailable for Arsenal with calf and knee injuries respectively. Midfield duo Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin are also sidelined, although Tomas Rosicky is expected to return to first-team training this week after seven months on the sidelines following surgery to correct a knee issue sustained on international duty with the Czech Republic.