LONDON - Chelsea will try to cement their position at the top of the Premier League by winning at London rivals Arsenal on Saturday 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 (FA) on Thursday after being found guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand and fined £220,000 ($356,722, 276,000 euros) pending appeal. Terry has 14 days from receiving the written reasons for the decision to lodge an appeal against a decision relating to an incident that took place during Chelsea’s match away to QPR at Loftus Road on October 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 Wolves on Tuesday, is available for Chelsea’s trip to Arsenal.

Before the hearing started, former England captain Terry dramatically retired from international football. 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 Saturday’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 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 League Cup win over Newcastle, 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,” said United midfielder Tom Cleverley.

“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 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 victory and a shut-out for goalkeeper Joe Hart.

“If you want to win the Premier League, you have to be able to keep clean sheets,” said City defender Kolo Toure. Liverpool go in search of their first league win this term when they travel to Norwich, with manager Brendan Rodgers hoping refereeing decisions at last go in the Merseysiders’ favour.

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 arch-rivals United after going down in the box. But Barnes told ESPN:

“The diving tag is unfair on him. He is no different to anyone else in world football who plays up front.

“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 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 north-east club’s owner, Mike Ashley.

Saturday’s other matches see high-flyers Everton at home to Southampton, Stoke play Swansea and Sunderland face Wigan. Aston Villa take on Midlands rivals West Brom on Sunday while Monday sees London rivals QPR and West Ham meet at Loftus Road.



Arsenal    v    Chelsea

Everton    v    Southampton

Fulham    v    Manchester City

Manchester United    v    Tottenham

Norwich    v    Liverpool

Reading    v    Newcastle

Stoke    v    Swansea

Sunderland    v    Wigan


Aston Villa    v    West Brom


QPR    v    West Ham