COBHAM, England (Reuters) - Chelsea captain John Terry, handed a suspended four-match ban and fined on Thursday for using racially abusive language, could play against Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday, coach Roberto Di Matteo said.
Terry, who was also fined 220,000 pounds ($356,200), was left out of the starting lineup for the league match against Stoke City last week, coming on as a substitute for the last two minutes, but played the full 90 minutes in Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup on Tuesday while his four-day hearing was still in progress.
“He trained as normal today and he is available, I have spoken to him and do on a regular basis. I am not going to tell you my team but he is available,” Di Matteo told reporters at the club’s training ground on Friday.
Asked if he would captain the side at the Emirates, Di Matteo replied: ”He is available and from our point of view there are no changes.
“He is a professional player, a senior player and he has all the experience in the world to deal with this game.”
Terry was found guilty by the FA on Thursday of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in a Premier League match last October, although he was cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence by magistrates in July.
Chelsea have said they will not comment on the FA’s decision to fine and ban Terry pending a possible appeal, and until Terry decides whether to appeal or not, he is eligible to play.
Chelsea make the short trip across London as league leaders after an unbeaten start to the season with four wins and a draw from their opening five league matches.
Di Matteo is expecting a tough match against fifth-placed Arsenal, who like Chelsea, scored six in the League Cup this week when they beat Coventry City 6-1 and who are also unbeaten in the league with two wins and three draws.
“It’s a big game every time Chelsea and Arsenal play each other. The two teams are in good form. We are in good shape, the spirit is good,” he said, adding that he expected Arsenal, who have not won the league since 2004, or any trophy since 2005, to challenge for the title this season.
”I said that at the start of the season, but I am not sure that many people believed me, but that is the way I saw it.
“I haven’t changed my mind. They have signed some very good players, interesting players and I think they will be up there with the other teams.”
Spaniard Santi Cazorla, who joined Arsenal at the start of the season, had caught his eye, he said, and his form had been one of the highlights of Arsenal’s season so far.
He also said that since Robin van Persie, who scored 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions last year, had left for Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s team had more options.
”They have become more unpredictable because the goals are coming from more players. They do not have a different pattern of play, they still play with a lot of possession, rotation, and midfield attacking players.
“(Lucas) Podolski has been scoring goals, Gervinho has been scoring goals, Santi Cazorla has been playing well -- they have a lot of players who are a threat in dangerous positions, but though the personnel has changed their philosophy hasn’t changed but I hope we will beat them by playing good football.”
($1 = 0.6176 British pounds)
Editing by Justin Palmer