Arsenal v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – 23rd December 2013

Either of these sides could be top at Christmas (depending on whether Liverpool get a result against Cardiff on Saturday) and it will also go some way to influencing whether either of these sides will be there in May. In what promises to be a hard-fought encounter in which festive cheer is far from the players’ minds, there’s all to play for as both Arsenal and Chelsea seek to strike a significant blow in the race for the Premier League crown.

Chelsea’s last visit to the Emirates was a successful one: their 2-0 victory in the League Cup. It’s hard to read too much into that though as neither side was at full strength (by design rather than necessity). The downside of that victory for the Blues, however, was that they have had less time to prepare for this league clash as their “reward” was a trip up to Sunderland in the next round, a match they lost 2-1 after extra-time.

Jose Mourinho was again left bemoaning his side’s wastefulness in front of goal in a match they controlled in the large part. Although he rested a couple of first-teamers, the fact the match wasn’t decided one way or the other within 90 minutes will no doubt add a level of irritation as his players will need to be in tip-top condition when they face an Arsenal side who have had since last Saturday to prepare physically, tactically and mentally.

Chelsea have enjoyed a decent run of league results at the Emirates in recent seasons, winning three and drawing one of their last five there, and they did the league double over the Gunners last term. But this season’s Arsenal side are a cut above those of the previous few years, with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud showing a marked improvement in form and the likes of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla all capable of both creating and taking chances, even against the tightest of defences, of which – let’s face facts – Chelsea’s is not.

Away form has been a struggle this season for Mourinho’s men with defeats at Everton, Stoke and Newcastle and draws at Spurs and Man United, the last of which seemed a reasonable result at the time but – with the benefit of hindsight – appears more like a missed opportunity. But Arsenal have had their fair share of disappointments too. Aside from their anomalous opening day home defeat to Aston Villa, losses at both Manchester clubs (and especially last week’s 6-3 hammering at City) will have rocked their belief, and this is something Chelsea must take advantage of if they are to get a result.

An early goal for the visitors and we could see the home side crumble under the pressure. But given the Blues’ lack of form in front of goal of late we think the more likely result is the draw, with Liverpool likely to nick top spot in time for Christmas.

LCN Verdict: Draw 1-1