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Arsenal v Chelsea
EPL Match Preview
It’s another huge London derby this weekend in the Premier League, as table toppers Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates on Super Sunday.
GUNNERS INTENT ON BLOWING AWAY CHELSEA CHALLENGE
Only one defeat in their last six league games has put Arsenal on top of the Premier League table as we head into a critical period of the season. A battling 0-0 draw away to Stoke City last weekend (at a stadium despised by coach Arsene Wenger) was a clear demonstration of the Gunners’ new found determination to end their quest for a first domestic league title since 2004. Now it’s time to welcome reigning champions Chelsea to North London and to finally show them just who is the top team in the capital this season. Wenger’s team are difficult to beat at home, they’re unbeaten in nine outings in front of their own supporters, winning seven of them and conceding only four goals in that period. Whilst their last league game in front of their own fans (a 1-0 win against Newcastle United) was far from pretty, this is the new Arsenal, combining flair with an ability to win ugly. This is the make-up of champions.
HIDDINK STILL FEARFUL OF RELEGATION DOGFIGHT
John Terry’s controversial 98th minute equaliser at home to Everton last weekend, rescued a point for the champions but did little to ease their fear of being thrown into a battle for Premier League survival. Whilst that’s unthinkable in many people’s eyes (with the best online sports betting sites currently offering odds of *67.00 for the Blues to go down), coach Gus Hiddink is convinced his players must be prepared for a battle to keep their place at English football’s top table. The fact of the matter is, defeat at the Emirates and unfavourable results elsewhere, could see the defending champions (despite being on a run of six games unbeaten) just a point outside the drop-zone on Sunday evening, which makes this London derby one of the biggest of the season for the men from Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal are likely to welcome Chilean play-maker Alexis Sanchez back into the starting line-up on Sunday but the same cannot be said for Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, who are all still injured. Nacho Monreal will celebrate signing a new deal at the club this week by keeping his place at left-back, whilst French striker Olivier Giroud, will be looking to score his first ever Premier League goal against the Blues.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa remain doubts for Chelsea ahead of Sunday’s short trip across the capital, but Hiddink will be desperate to have them in his starting XI. Out of form Nemanja Matic, may pay the price for some lacklustre displays by dropping to the bench, with Cesc Fabregas moving back into the holding role and Oscar coming into an advanced position behind the striker. Radamel Falcao is injured and seemingly on his way back to Monaco in the transfer window.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Bellerin; Ramsey, Flamini; Sanchez, Ozil, Campbell; Giroud
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Courtois; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Terry, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Mikel; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Costa
HEAD TO HEAD
It’s now more than eight hours since Arsenal scored a goal against Chelsea. Failure to do so again on Sunday will equal the club’s longest run without scoring against a Premier League opponent. Gus Hiddink’s last visit to the Emirates as Chelsea coach saw his team run out 4-1 winners in May 2009 – Arsenal’s worst ever Premier League home defeat. The Blues are also unbeaten in their last eight league games against the Gunners, since being walloped 5-3 back in October 2011. Three of the last four meetings between the two at the Emirates have failed to produce a goal; the betting exchanges are offering odds of *10.00 for this to happen again on Sunday.
Arsenal 2.00 Draw 3.60 Chelsea 4.00
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)