If John Terry is looking for something to take his mind off his current predicament, he could barely ask for a better match than Sunday's Premier League meeting against Manchester United.
United has the attacking talent of Wayne Rooney, Nani, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley available after injury and Chelsea will need a strong contribution in defense from its captain if he plays.
Terry's on-field performances have been overshadowed by allegations that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in October, and a criminal trial over the charge was delayed this week until July.
Chelsea needs victory just as much as United, which visits Stamford Bridge after winning three straight matches to move level with Manchester City at the top of the standings.
Third-place Tottenham is seven points ahead of Chelsea, which is hanging onto the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot ahead of challenges from Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal.
United _ unlike regular rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool _ has no worries over whether it will qualify for next season's Champions League. Although the outcome of the title race is still far from certain, United manager Alex Ferguson can finally contemplate an improved injury list.
Ferguson has at times been without almost a full team of players but Rooney and Nani have been training for two days after recovering from injuries sustained in the Jan. 22 win at Arsenal. Young has been out since December and Cleverley has been out since October.
``We're a bit better in terms of injuries,'' Ferguson said. ``We hope Wayne Rooney, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young will all be in the squad. It's more likely Tom will play against Chelsea reserves on Monday, but he'll travel.''
But goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is out of action for as long as six weeks because of an ankle injury, leaving David De Gea likely to start and Ben Amos set to fill in on the bench.
United has won five of its last six meetings with Chelsea but the Blues' won the other match in that sequence 2-1 in last season's corresponding fixture.
If Terry, who has a knee problem, plays, he would come face-to-face with England teammate Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand's brother.
But Ferguson said that would not be a problem for his player, citing the example of United defender Patrice Evra, who accused Liverpool striker Luis Suarez of racially abusing him this season.
``Rio has been fighting racism for many years and the lad must rise above it,'' Ferguson said. ``It doesn't detract from anything to shake John Terry's hand.
``Patrice Evra has already shown the courage to fight it by complaining about it. It is nothing to be ashamed of. There is not a problem shaking hands.''
Also Sunday, Aston Villa is at fifth-place Newcastle.
Manchester City hosts Fulham in one of seven games Saturday, with Tottenham at Liverpool on Monday.
Manchester City will again be without striker Mario Balotelli because of suspension and Ivory Coast duo Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure because of their participation at the African Cup of Nations.
David Pizarro, signed on loan from Roma this week, is in contention to make his debut and defensive duo Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards should play despite minor fitness problems.
Man United keeper Lindegaard out for up to 6 weeks
Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard will be out of action for as long as six weeks because of ankle ligament damage.
United manager Alex Ferguson says that the 27-year-old Lindegaard will be on the sidelines for ``at least four weeks, maybe five or six.''
The injury means David De Gea is likely to start for the defending champions in Sunday's Premier League match at Chelsea.
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