The Premier League’s two unbeaten sides come face to face this weekend as Chelsea host London rivals Arsenal. The Blues are six points ahead of fourth placed Arsenal, and they’ll be looking to extend that lead with another win over Arsene Wenger’s side.
Of course the big talking point for this game will be Cesc Fabregas facing his former club. Fabregas came through the ranks at Arsenal to captain them, and Chelsea fans know all about having a former hero coming back to haunt you after their 1-1 draw at Manchester City when Frank Lampard got the equaliser. This would be the perfect game for Fabregas to grab his first league goal, against an Arsenal side who often collapse in these kinds of games.
Chelsea won this fixture 6-0 last season, scoring early on and going after the Arsenal defence. That result came last term when Chelsea didn’t have a real striker and it’s hard to imagine what a player of the calibre of Diego Costa could do if given the chance against Arsenal. The question is, will he get that chance?
After starting against Sporting Lisbon in midweek he’s a doubt for this game, due to his hamstring troubles. While he’s got four days to recover, he still might not make it. If he does, he could bully the Arsenal defence like Didier Drogba used to do, which is something his likely replacement Loic Remy wouldn’t be capable of. Remy is more pacey, less physical, meaning he’s not going to take on the same kind of battles that Costa does.
The back five basically picks itself these days, with the only change from Tuesday’s game against Lisbon likely to be Cesar Azpilicueta coming in at left back for Filipe Luis. That would make the back four in this one identical to the one that started in the 6-0 win.
In midfield, we could see a more adventurous set up from Mourinho, avoiding the 4-3-3 formation he uses in games to keep it tight. He played 4-2-3-1 against Arsenal at home last season, and we know how that went. Ramires is still out of course, which limits Chelsea’s options in the middle and makes the 4-2-3-1 more likely. Fabregas and Matic will keep their places in the centre of midfield whatever the formation. Oscar has had a couple of impressive performances recently, and he should play in the number 10 role.
On the wings Eden Hazard will start on the left, with Willian likely to take up the spot on the right. Andre Schurrle had an awful time against Sporting, so he’s unlikely to play here. The team seems fairly straightforward, apart from the striker.
A win here would give Chelsea a huge lead over Arsenal, giving them a big early advantage in the title race. With the international break just around the corner, a win here would be a great way to sign off.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0