Chelsea captain John Terry is closing in on a timely return for the visit of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United, after recovering fully from an ankle injury. Reports suggested the former England skipper had suffered a setback in his return after missing training in the lead up to the fixture, however Antonio Conte expects to have the 35-year-old available.
Terry has not played for the Blues since September's 2-2 draw with Swansea City, missing four games in a row before being named as a substitute for the heavy victory over Leicester City last weekend. The Times understands the former West Ham United academy player had damaged the same area for the second time this term, leaving Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill destined to retain their places.
But Conte told reporters: "John is in good shape. He trained with the team. He solved his problem in his ankle and this week he trained very well and he is available for the game. Terry is our captain and he is an important player for us."
The former Juventus boss will also be without Cesc Fabregas, who continues to recover from a thigh problem, as well as defenders Branislav Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma. While Ivanovic has a muscle issue picked up which competing for Serbia during the international break, Zouma is recovery from a long-term knee injury suffered last February.
"Cesc had a small muscular injury in a part of his body," the Italian added. "For this reason we must wait for him to stay well and come back and hope for him to come back very soon. It is the thigh, but in a zone which is not normally prone to injury
"We also have Ivanovic who is injured and came back from the national team with a muscular problem. He is recovering and I hope to have the whole squad very soon and then have a problem with making a decision. Zouma, we are waiting on him. This week he comes back to the training sessions with the Under-21s and then I wanted him to come with us and start a new life for him."
Conte will make a late decision over whether to recall Willian and Oscar for the visit of United, with both players having been on compassionate leave in the past week. Neither player featured against Leicester; Willian due to the death of his mother and Oscar as he returned to Brazil after the passing of his grandfather.
"Willian came back on Thursday in the morning and then he had two training sessions with us," explained Conte. "In this situation it is very important to consider all aspects and I spoke also with the player. We are sorry for him and for this situation. Also for Oscar, he flied to Brazil after the death of his grandfather.
"It is important to consider all the aspects and then you make a decision. We have tomorrow to see what the situation is but I repeat that it is important that we support him [Willian] together and his family. When you lose your mother it is always a bad thing."
Despite the hosts having a lengthy list of absentees, the game at Chelsea represents United's third game in less than seven days. Mourinho's side have faced Liverpool in the Premier League and Fenerbahce in the Europa League already this week, with Conte's side having had a week off since their 3-0 success over the champions.
"I saw the players that will probably start on Sunday, there are four," the 47-year-old stated. "I don't want this type of advantage because this means that we don't play Champions League or Europa League during the week. When you have this possibility you can give the chance for the other players that every day work very hard at the training sessions. At Chelsea this season I cannot do this so it is not an advantage."