Chelsea and Arsenal face off in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge, in what is set to be a fierce contest and a crucial match in the race for the Premier League title.
Antonio Conte’s side will go into the match brimming with confidence, having won their last three league matches on the bounce. The Gunners will be pleased with their 3-0 hammering of Bournemouth last weekend, but manager Arsène Wenger remains under pressure following previous poor results against Liverpool and Stoke.
Arsenal have won their last two matches in the row against the Blues, but have lost seven of their last eight trips to Stamford
The Gunners have had a tough time of things on their travels to Stamford Bridge, having failed to win in west London since 2011. If the memory isn’t too deeply repressed, Arsenal fans may still be haunted at night by a clash between the two sides in March 2014, which saw a rampant Chelsea put six passed a helpless Gunners side.
Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal was not the celebratory performance he had hoped for, as he witnessed a truly abject performance form his team. Samuel Eto’o gave the hosts the lead after just five minutes, dancing through the Arsenal defence before bending an emphatic finish passed a helpless Wojciech Szcz?sny.
André Schürrle doubled the lead just two minutes later, before Kieran Gibbs was bizarrely dismissed, despite the offending handball being committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Blues went on to demolish the Gunners, with Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, and a brace of goals from Oscar rubbing salt in to their opposition’s wounds.
The hosts head into the match in buoyant mood, having won their last three Premier League matches. The opening day 3-2 loss against Burnley seems to be thoroughly out of the league champions’ system now, and they will look to make it four wins in a row against Arsenal on Sunday.
Chelsea have looked resilient in their recent games, especially in their tough trips to play Spurs at Wembley and Leicester City on their own turf. Club record signing Álvaro Morata in particular has been in blistering form, scoring three goals in his first four league appearances for the Blues.
Arsenal managed to steady the ship with a 3-0 victory over Bournemouth last weekend, having been outclassed by Liverpool and outmuscled by Stoke in the two defeats before the win. The Gunners looked impressive against the Cherries, and Thursday’s hard-earned 3-1 Europa League win against Köln hinted at a real element of determination in Wenger’s squad.
The Gunners often struggle on the road against the top teams in the Premier League, and their witless outing in their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool may well give their fans reason to be pessimistic ahead of Sunday’s big game.
Antonio Conte has confirmed that new signing Danny Drinkwater won’t feature for the Blues any time soon, officially ruling the player out of contention until at least October with a calf injury. Chelsea fans will be desperate to see club talisman Eden Hazard make his first start of the season, after making a strong recovery from pre-season ankle surgery.
Arsenal will be without Theo Walcott for the match due to a calf injury picked up in the midweek Europa League campaign, while midfielders Francis Coquelin (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla (achilles tendon) are ruled out of contention for Sunday’s game.
Potential Chelsea Starting Lineup: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rüdiger, Moses, Alonso, Kante, Fàbregas, Pedro, Hazard, Morata.
Potential Arsenal Starting Lineup: ?ech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Ramsey, Xhaka, Welbeck, Sanchez, Lacazette.
While Arsenal have had the better of the last two competitive matches between the two sides, Chelsea look certain to pile more pressure upon Wenger with a comprehensive victory on Sunday.
If Hazard returns and produces the form he is renowned for, Chelsea could put the Gunners to the sword with a merciless performance.
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Arsenal will need to score an early goal, and put the hosts in the backseat from the word go if they are to stand any chance of claiming the three points on Sunday. However, Chelsea proved against Spurs that they are an excellent counter-attacking side, and their tactical flexibility could prove too much for Wenger in this crunch game.
Prediction: Chelsea 3 – 1 Arsenal??