Drogba becomes latest Chelsea absentee

LONDON - Brief news from the Premier League before this weekend's matches:

Didier Drogba has a fever and will miss champions Chelsea's away match at Aston Villa on Saturday but captain John Terry is available after pulling out of England duties in midweek.

"Frank Lampard is not available, Drogba is not available, (Daniel) Sturridge is not available, (Salomon) Kalou is not available, Alex is not available, (Yossi) Benayoun is not available, Terry is available," commented manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Everton's Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini has been ruled out for six weeks by a hamstring problem he picked up on international duty.

"It's a very big blow because he is an important player for us," said manager David Moyes, who has also lost midfielder Steven Pienaar with a groin problem for Sunday's home derby against Liverpool.

Everton's England defender Phil Jagielka is also doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Manchester United have ruled out Owen Hargreaves making his return from long-term injury against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday after his surgeon suggested he could play.

"Owen's not ready. He's injured," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told reporters. "He got a calf injury and has missed training for the last few days.

"I pick the team and I have been doing that for a while. We're having some difficulties with the doctor in Colorado. It's not fair to the player, to the fans and to ourselves to say the player is going to be playing. It's ridiculous."

England striker Theo Walcott has recovered from the ankle problem that has kept him out for five weeks and returns along with Nicklas Bendtner to the Arsenal squad for Saturday's home game against Birmingham City.

Centre-back Laurent Koscielny is out due to a back injury, with Johan Djourou likely to take his place. Injured captain Cesc Fabregas is also absent but could return for the home Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

Tottenham Hotspur defenders Ledley King, William Gallas (groin) and Younes Kaboul (hamstring) face late fitness tests ahead of their trip to Fulham on Saturday.

"We're not too bad really, just got to see how Ledley is. It's a juggling act with him this week," said manager Harry Redknapp. "Do we play him on Saturday and maybe get two league games out of him, or do we play him in the Champions League and have him miss two league games? It's a bit of a balancing act."

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, whose side play at Blackpool on Sunday has defended midfielder Nigel de Jong after the tackle that broke the leg of Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa.

"It was very, very unlucky. But it was a normal tackle, not all the things that the people talking about it have said," the Italian told City's website.

"He's an honest player and a good player. He is a hard player but in the Premier League there are a lot of players like Nigel who play 100 percent for the team who can sometimes do one or two fouls."