Alexis Sanchez is in contention to make his long-awaited return for Arsenal after manager Arsene Wenger revealed the contract rebel is in contention to face Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday [27 August].
The Chile international has missed the Gunners' first three games of the campaign, including last weekend's defeat to Stoke City, with an apparent abdominal strain amid mass speculation regarding his future at The Emirates Stadium.
The 28-year-old's future has dominated the summer transfer window with the former Udinese and Barcelona star having entered the final 12 months of his contract in north London and shown no desire to extend the deal.
Arsenal will lose Sanchez for nothing next summer should they continue to hold off interest in the forward, though The Times understand Manchester City will make a last ditch effort to sign him for a fee approaching £50m. Sanchez has meanwhile recovered from his injury and could yet feature against Liverpool alongside defender Laurent Koscielny who is available after suspension.
"Alexis works very hard, gives so much and he looks ready," Wenger said, according to Sky Sports. "I'll have to decide what I do but he's ready to play. Overall he looks in good shape. He has always been focused on his job. I don't think he's too much disturbed by all the noise - players at that level are used to it. Some deal better with it than others.
"He's very focused, very happy. Doesn't mean there's no chance to extend his contract, though we haven't managed to do it. We just want to focus as a team and not look too much at individual contracts."
Santi Cazorla and Joel Campbell are the only confirmed absentees for Arsenal, with the former recovering from several bouts of surgery on an achillies injury. But all eyes will be on Sanchez, who could make his first appearance since the FA Cup Final in May when he scored in victory over Chelsea at Wembley.
The situation regarding Sanchez is not dissimilar to that which is currently affecting Liverpool, whose own star player Philippe Coutinho is being courted by Barcelona. The Reds have rejected four bids from the Catalan giants amid reports the Brazil international has request he be allowed to leave Anfield.
But Wenger has refused to draw a link between the two cases and says Arsenal will "survive" if any of their star players do depart. "Every situation is different," added the Frenchman. "Very difficult for me to interfere - I have enough to deal with my own situations here. I don't know where he stands with Liverpool and Liverpool with him.
"I've had to deal with big departures many times, and I always focus on the team and Arsenal. Of course you want to keep your best players, but you have to find a way to survive."