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Former England captain John Terry will be absent on Sunday when Chelsea take on Premier League title-chasing Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

The Football Association on Friday decided to strip Terry of the national team’s skipper’s armband in the wake of his alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand.

Focus has inevitably fallen upon Chelsea captain Terry, but he will not face United after failing to overcome the knee injury which caused him to miss the midweek draw at Swansea.

It would have been Terry’s first on-field appearance since his court denial of alleged racism and it could have delivered a meeting with Rio Ferdinand, brother of Anton, and a possible snubbed handshake.

But the Chelsea centre-back has not recovered from his injury, which Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas revealed had been sustained in the FA Cup win over Portsmouth.

Regardless of the off-field allegations and the scrutiny of Terry, the meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson’s United is a significantly important game for Chelsea.

The Londoners have almost to a man accepted they are out of the title race after falling 12 points behind leaders Manchester City and United, who are only separated by goal difference.

Chelsea are instead seemingly in a four-way fight for fourth place, and the UEFA Champions League, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle to mean a win against United is crucial for Villas-Boas.

Ferguson, though, will not need telling about the impact of the game against their previous title rivals, as general consensus suggests that if United come through games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham and are still keeping pace with City, they are ominously placed.

United enjoy a good overall record against Chelsea having won five of their last six matches in all competitions, but, when it comes to the league, Ferguson’s men have not succeeded in their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea will be without the suspended Ashley Cole after the England left-back was sent off against Swansea and Didier Drogba is still at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Brazilian midfielder Ramires damaged knee ligaments in the FA Cup win over QPR and is continuing his rehabilitation.

He joins Jon Obi Mikel (hamstring) on the sidelines, but Frank Lampard (calf) could return despite missing the draw at Swansea.

United have a decision to make in goal after Anders Lindegaard was ruled out for at least four weeks with an ankle ligament injury.

Ben Amos started in Tuesday’s win over Stoke and could keep his place despite David de Gea’s expected return to fitness.

Ferguson hopes Wayne Rooney, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young could all be fit enough to return to the squad.

Long-term absentee Cleverley will travel to London with United’s squad, but he is more likely to face Chelsea’s reserves on Monday.

Possible starting XIs

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Ferreira, Malouda, Romeu, Meireles, Mata, Sturridge, Torres.

Manchester United: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Park, Giggs, Carrick, Valencia, Welbeck, Rooney.

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