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Arsenal vs Chelsea: Preview

Aalekh

Arsenal(5th) vs Chelsea (1st) (Current Ranks in Barclays Premier League)

Date: Saturday, 29 September, 2012

Time: 5:15PM IST

Venue: The Emirates

After 2 cracking games on Super Sunday last weekend, this weekend does not disappoint, with 2 particularly exciting games to look forward to. While Manchester United host Spurs later on this Saturday, it’s the first game at the Emirates that is in focus here.

The last 10 of these London derbies have produced 2 or more goals, with the exception of this corresponding fixture last season, in April. The reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge stands out from the rest, and the 5-3 victory will not be easily forgotten by the Gunners. Incidentally, it was former gunner, Robin Van Persie, who scored a hat-trick in that game, but the past is past.

Chelsea fans, too, will have fond memories with fixtures against the red half of North London in recent years, with a certain Didier Drogba establishing himself as Arsenal’s scourge. Drogba epitomises the kind of player Arsenal have shown weakness against for the past few years with their defensive vulnerabilities. A quick glance at this incredible statistic will testify to the impact Drogba has had on this encounter:

Last 33 Matches between Arsenal and Chelsea:

WITH Drogba WITHOUT Drogba

P11 W7 D3 L1 P22 W0 D9 L13

But, in fairness, both the teams have changed massively this season from the last one, and those prior to that.

Arsenal are looking far more composed, far less dependent on a single player, and are not leaking goals left, right and centre. It may be too early to judge or predict what Arsenal can do this season, but nobody will doubt that spirits are high in their camp, and among the fans, and they do seem more able to tackle stronger teams than they did last season. The new signings from last season, which looked like an unmatched pair of nut and bolt last season, are functioning like clockwork so far, and the more recent additions, too, have fitted in perfectly. Having conceded just 2 league goals so far in 5 games, Arsenal will surely be looking to carry on their good start to the season, and will be aiming for nothing less than 3 points. They have played 3 difficult away games at Stoke, Anfield, and the Etihad, and have taken 5 points out of a possible 9. With the last 2 games at Emirates producing 7 goals each, who knows, we may be in for a thriller on Saturday.

Chelsea were exceptional in midweek too, against Wolves, with 6 different players scoring a goal apiece. Topping the league so far, the Blues have looked formidable, but they face a daunting task on Saturday. Having put 13 points on the board in 5 games, Di Matteo could not have hoped for a better start to the season, not just in terms of points, but performance. Chelsea finally seem to be moving on from Mourinho, now adapting to a much more “attractive” brand of football, with the likes of Hazard and Torres replacing Malouda and Drogba. Having swept aside Wigan, Reading and Newcastle aside in their opening 3 fixtures, scoring 8 goals in the process, things could not have looked brighter. After a setback against Atletico Madrid, Chelsea had to work much harder in the next 2 fixtures, but managed to get 4 points, after a draw at QPR, and a victory at home to Stoke last weekend, thanks to a late Ashley Cole goal.

Eden Hazard is playing like he just graduated from the Chelsea Academy. With 6 assists and a goal in 5 matches, he may just be the talismanic signing Fernando Torres never turned out to be. To be fair, however, Torres has regained some of his old form, and has found the net twice in the league so far. His link-up play with Hazard has looked particularly well, and Chelsea fans should be looking forward to the 2 gelling together more as the season progresses. This match is the first major test for Chelsea in the league, and they will be keen to prove doubters wrong. While Chelsea fell behind the league last time around (though getting more than just consolation in lifting the UEFA Champions League), a win at the Emirates would definitely strike fear into the hearts of the Manchester clubs. Arsenal have already drawn at Manchester City, and Di Matteo will relish this opportunity, not only to get 3 points, but to massively boost confidence among players and fans alike.

TEAM NEWS

Arsenal:

The home team are boosted by the return of captain Thomas Vermaelen, who missed the game against City due to illness. Wilshere is on the path to recovery, but will play no part on Saturday, though he is expected to feature for the Under-21s on Monday. Frimpong did feature on Wednesday, playing against Coventry, and may be fit enough to make the bench, should Wenger decide to pick him. Szczesny is expected to be out for another 2-3 weeks, so Mannone will continue in goal. Sagna and Rosicky remain long term absentees.

Chelsea:

John Terry has been found guilty by the FA for racial abuse, but his 4 match ban does not take effect immediately, hence the Blues skipper is free to lead the Chelsea defence on Saturday. Marko Marin made a comeback as a substitute against Wolves, though is unlikely to be picked by Di Matteo for the crunch match. Frank Lampard had a minor ankle issue, but should be fit to start. Daniel Sturridge remains absent owing to a hamstring problem.

Possible Lineups:

Mannone

Jenkinson Vermaelen(c) Mertesacker Gibbs

Arteta Diaby

Cazorla

Walcott/OX Podolski Gervinho

________________________________________________________

Hazard Torres Ramires

Mata Lampard

Mikel

Cole Terry(c) Luiz Ivanovic

Cech

Author’s Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea


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Edited by Staff Editor

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