By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes

Alexis Sanchez is confident he can play in Arsenal’s eagerly-anticipated showdown against Manchester City on Monday night, Football Insider sources understand.

Arsene Wenger said at his pre-match media briefing on Thursday that that the forward had not yet returned to full training after missing three matches with a hamstring injury.

An Arsenal dressing room source has told Football Insider that Sanchez has stepped up the intensity of his training in the last two days and believes he is ready to play a full part in the top-of-the-table Premier League showdown at Emirates Stadium.

Wenger is ready to name the Chilean in his 18-man squad to face Manuel Pellegrini’s team.

Sanchez returned to England eight days ago after a week’s break in Chile to recover from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of the team’s last three matches.

He elected not to attend Arsenal’s Christmas party at the West End nightspot Libertine as he continued his rehabilitation.

Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Thursday morning, Wenger said: “Alexis Sanchez has a slight chance. He’s not in full training but is running.”

Wenger claimed on Thursday that he might have to protect the Chilean for the player’s own good.

“Yes because he is always ready,” said the manager. “I believe that he wants to play. You want him to be keen to play. He respects my decisions. That’s what you want.”

Wenger’s side have coped well in Sanchez’s absence, defeating Sunderland 3-1 and Aston Villa 2-0 in the Premier League as well as clinching a memorable 3-0 Champions League win over Olympiakos.

Football Insider revealed earlier this month that the Chilean was targeting the City match on 21 December for his comeback match.

Red alert: Alexis Sanchez faces a race against time to make the City clash

Red alert: Alexis Sanchez faces a race against time to make the City clash

The impending return of Sanchez is a huge boost to Arsenal ahead of the demanding festive programme.

The initial fears were that he could be sidelined for four to six weeks, but as revealed by Football Insider on 2 December, the injury is not a really serious one.