Arsenal to rest key players in Europa League ahead of weekend Chelsea clash

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As many as seven first-team regulars for Arsenal were absent from Wednesday’s training session ahead of a UEFA Europa League Group Stage meeting with FC Koln.

Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka all sat out of the training session as Arsene Wenger aims to keep the squad fresh ahead of a meeting with Chelsea on the weekend.

Chilean star Alexis Sanchez is eyeing a return to the starting line-up after dropping to the bench in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger spoke to the press ahead of the Koln clash, claiming that Sanchez is raring to go after a poor run of results while on international duty.

“He is focused, he told me he is focused on the Premier League and Europa League. He had a bad result with Chile against Bolivia, but he came back full of desire and ready to play,” said the Arsenal boss.

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Arsenal have a terrible record against Chelsea, one which becomes even worse when specifically looking at Stamford Bridge meetings between the two. They’ve lost all five of their last visits to Chelsea’s home ground, scoring just two goals and conceding 15 in the process, and haven’t beaten them on their own patch since October 2011 – when Robin van Persie scored a hattrick en route to a dramatic 5-3 victory.

Arsenal sit in 11th place in the Premier League, albeit after just four games, but will approach the mid-week clash with caution ahead of a dangerous trip to Stamford Bridge at the weekend.

The Gunners have already lost twice in the league this season – 1-0 away at Stoke City and 4-0 away at Liverpool – and will need to change their fortunes on the road if they hope to salvage anything from the campaign.

Arsenal traded wins with Chelsea last season, getting the better of them 3-0 at the Emirates early in the campaign, but were dismissed by a similar scoreline when they met later in the season at Stamford Bridge, losing 3-1.

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