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Chelsea braced for United titanic clash

Chelsea's new signings Diego Costa (L) celebrates with Cesc Fabregas after scoring a goal during their pre-season friendly match against Olimpija Ljubljana/AFP

Chelsea’s new signings Diego Costa (L) celebrates with Cesc Fabregas after scoring a goal during their pre-season friendly match against Olimpija Ljubljana/AFP

LONDON, October 24- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has shrugged off the fitness concerns surrounding his three main strikers ahead of the Premier League leaders’ match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Loic Remy limped out of the Blues’ comprehensive 6-0 Champions League victory over Maribor on Tuesday after scoring the 14th minute opening goal, while Diego Costa was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Didier Drogba will start for the Premier League leaders against Louis van Gaal’s side despite Mourinho admitting the veteran is not fully match fit.

“Loic has a muscular injury. I don’t know the dimension and I’m not worried. When a player is injured, play another one,” said Mourinho following Tuesday’s comprehensive win at Stamford Bridge.

Asked whether Costa would be available, he added: “No, I don’t expect him to be.”

However, were Costa to feature at Old Trafford it wouldn’t be the first time a key player had appeared in a match just days after seemingly being ruled out by his manager.

Remy went for s scan on Wednesday and if neither of his main two forwards are available, Mourinho is set to ask 36-year-old Didier Drogba, who replaced Remy against Maribor, to lead the line even though the 36-year-old Ivorian has only recently returned from an ankle injury.

– Chelsea won’t cry over injuries – 

“We are playing well, we are getting good results,” said Mourinho. “We don’t cry about injuries. We just think one injury means an opportunity for somebody else.”

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Sunday’s match pits Mourinho against United manager Louis van Gaal, who kept the Portuguese on his staff at Barcelona after he had been first brought to the Spanish giants by former England manager Bobby Robson.

But with United, having laboured to a 2-2 draw away to West Bromwich Albion last time out, Dutch manager Van Gaal knows it will take more than a detailed knowledge of Mourinho’s methods for his side to beat Chelsea.

“Now we have to play against Chelsea and in the Netherlands they say ‘that is another Kuche’, or another ‘biscuit’. By that I mean another level,” Van Gaal said.

Southampton may have lost several key players, as well as manager Mauricio Pochettino, to rival Premier League clubs in recent months but that hasn’t stopped the Saints soaring to third in the table.

Last week they recorded their biggest top-flight win when they thrashed Sunderland 8-0.

Southampton also boast the meanest defence in the Premier League so far this term, having conceded just five goals in their opening eight matches.

Nevertheless, manager Ronald Koeman believes the south coast side, who face Stoke at St Mary’s on Saturday, still have room for improvement.

“We showed them some clips from the first 20 minutes against Sunderland,” said Koeman.

“That’s not how I like us to start at home. They know what happened — it wasn’t a good start,” the former Netherlands defender added.

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That defending champions Manchester City are second in the table, five points behind Chelsea, is no surprise but West Ham in fourth place certainly is.

City travel to the London club’s Upton Park ground on Saturday having let slip a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw away to CSKA Moscow that left them in severe danger of failing yet again to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.   

Manuel Pellegrini’s men thrashed West Ham 9-0 on aggregate over two legs of last season’s FA Cup semi-final but Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has brought in several news players since then and believes now is a good time to play City.

“They’ve just come back from playing a Champions League game. If we’re going to get anything, perhaps now is the time. We’re in good, confident form.”

Elsewhere Newcastle will look to carry on from their win over Leicester — the Magpies’ first league victory of the season — away to a Tottenham side who overpowered Asteras Tripoli 5-1 in the Europa League on Thursday.

Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated)

Saturday: Liverpool v Hull, Southampton v Stoke, Sunderland v Arsenal, Swansea v Leicester (1630GMT), West Brom v Crystal Palace, West Ham v Manchester City (1145GMT)

Sunday: Burnley v Everton (1330GMT), Tottenham v Newcastle (1330GMT), Manchester United v Chelsea (1600GMT)

Monday: QPR v Aston Villa (2000GMT)

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