Arsenal vs Chelsea: Preview, team news and score prediction
The Premier League's packed festive schedule has not run its course yet and viewers will be treated to the new year's first heavyweight clash when Arsenal host Chelsea on Wednesday evening.
The Gunners, who are fresh off a disappointing 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion, seek just their third home victory over their North London rivals in the league since 2010.
It's been quite a torrid season for the Emirates outfit. Ever since finishing outside of the Premier League's top four last season, they've been seeking to break back into it, though their efforts have been unsuccessful thus far.
Arsenal are sixth-placed, six points off a place in the top four and have, along with rivals Tottenham Hotspur, lost the most games in the league's top six (5).
Countless Arsenal supporters would name the squad's weaknesses-- decisions made at boardroom level and of course manager Arsene Wenger as just some of the reasons for their problems. However, it goes without saying that a win against an in-form Chelsea side would bring some much-needed confidence to their chase for Champions League football.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are looking to add to their impressive run of five league games unbeaten, during which they've won four matches, drawing one.
The Blues have easily been the dark horses in a title race involving the two Manchester clubs, as they've quietly gone about their business, while the world has been fussing about Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.
Victory in this latest North London encounter will see them move up to second at the expense of Manchester United, while they will also be keen to avenge a 3-0 loss suffered against Arsenal last season, one of the few disappointing occasions of their title-winning campaign.
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil will face a late fitness test after missing his side's previous match due to a knee problem. Gunners Captain Laurent Koscielny has a slim chance of playing and Wenger's injury headache has grown with Sead Kolasinac, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal and Olivier Giroud all remaining on the sidelines.
It's likely to be a case of one man's headache being another's joy, as rival boss Conte has a mostly fit squad to pick his team from, with the only exception being defender David Luiz, who is out with a knee injury.
The last match between these two produced a rather surprising goalless draw that, given both side's recent form, shouldn't be expected in their latest clash.
Arsenal will once again rely on a key player of theirs in Alexis Sanchez, who remains in the headlines over a possible move away from the club this month. Will the Chilean produce his fiery best or display a distant face once again?
Chelsea, on the other hand, will be confident in their ability to keep Sanchez and co. out of the headlines - the Blues boast four clean-sheets in four previous games - while adding to the five goals they put past Stoke City last Saturday.
All in all, it's set to be a tightly-contested clash not short of drama and entertainment.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea