Sat, Sep 29, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Chelsea look to strengthen their grip on top spot

AFP, LONDON

Chelsea will try to cement their position at the top of the Premier League by winning at London rivals Arsenal today in their first match since Blues skipper John Terry was banned for racist abuse.

Terry was given a four-game ban by the Football Association on Thursday after being found guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand and fined £220,000 (US$357,000) pending an appeal.

Terry has 14 days from receiving the written reasons for the decision to lodge an appeal against the ruling relating to an incident that took place during Chelsea’s match away to QPR at Loftus Road on Oct. 23 last year.

The ban — which comes after the 31-year-old former England captain was acquitted of criminal charges relating to the same incident in July — will not come into force until the appeals procedure is complete.

That means central defender Terry, who played in the 6-0 English League Cup rout of Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday, is available for Chelsea’s trip to Arsenal.

Before the hearing started, former England captain Terry dramatically retired from international soccer.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was taken back by the defender’s decision to call time on his 78-cap England career, but the Frenchman had no doubt Terry would be ready for today’s match if selected.

“Terry in the big games has experience and leadership qualities that can always be important,” Wenger said.

Second-placed Manchester United face Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, with England striker Wayne Rooney set to make his Premier League return after a gashed thigh.

Darren Fletcher, who also featured in the midweek English League Cup win over Newcastle United, is in line for a first league start in 10 months after being sidelined with a chronic bowel condition.

“It is fantastic to have them both back,” United midfielder Tom Cleverley said. “Darren Fletcher is a big game player and would bring positive things to any squad in the world. I am happy for him. Wayne came back and put in a good performance too, so we are getting stronger.”

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, who have won just two of their five league games this season and conceded seven goals in the process, travel to in-form Fulham looking for a victory and a clean sheet for goalkeeper Joe Hart.

“If you want to win the Premier League, you have to be able to keep clean sheets,” City defender Kolo Toure said.

Liverpool go in search of their first league win this season when they travel to Norwich City, with manager Brendan Rodgers hoping refereeing decisions at last go in the Merseysiders’ favor.

Anfield great John Barnes believes Liverpool are being punished because striker Luis Suarez has an undeserved reputation for diving.

The Uruguay forward was denied a penalty during last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat by archrivals Manchester United after going down in the box.

“The diving tag is unfair on him. He is no different to anyone else in world football who plays up front,” Barnes told ESPN. “In other countries players are not judged from a moral point of view, but that is the case in England, because we are English and we are morally correct, we are the moral policemen of the world.”

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew takes his side to bottom-of-the-table Reading, buoyed by being given a new eight-year contract by the Magpies in a huge show of faith by the northeast club’s owner, Mike Ashley.

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