By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/September 17, 2017
First of all, let me use this opportunity to apologise for not doing the preview for our midweek Champions’ League game against Qarabag. It was because I had very little information about the Azerbaijani team (not even Google could help in that regard) and I felt there was no point writing if the preview was going to be one-sided. With that out of the way, let’s get to the business at hand.
Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal team comes to town on Sunday lunch time for a game that’s pretty important for both teams and could carry a heavy consequence for the losing team. Chelsea are just one point off the top of the table prior to this weekend with Arsenal a further three points back and a win for Manchester City against Watford in one of the 3pm kick offs on Saturday would extend that lead to four making this game a big one for Antonio Conte and his team. A win for Chelsea and either or both Manchester teams dropping points against Watford and Everton respectively could see us climb to the top of the table by the end of this weekend but a loss for Arsene Wenger’s men will mean they will be six points off the pace even if it’s still early days in the season. Sunday cannot come early enough for me if I’m being honest.
This is one of Arsenal’s most dreaded fixtures of the season as they have left empty handed in the last five encounters at SW6, even during silly season they still succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. In the Premier League era Arsenal has the better of the 50 matches to date winning 19 of them and losing 17 with remaining 14 ending in draws. But in the last ten encounters between these two London giants whether in North or South West London, Arsenal has only come up with just one win, and that proved to be the catalyst to our title triumph last season, (L7 D2). Arsenal has lost the last five games at Stamford Bridge conceding 15 and scoring just two one of which was Olivier Giroud’s late consolation in the corresponding fixture last season. In the last ten years, Chelsea has only failed to score six times (L3 D3) but the good news is that of those six times none came at Stamford Bridge where Sunday’s game will take place. We’re assured of at least a goal if the last five matches at SW6 is anything to go by
Antonio Conte is trying to ease Eden Hazard back into the frame of things with another 30 minutes cameo against Qarabag on Tuesday night but we have to wait and see if he gets the nod to start against the Gunners on Sunday. Conte, being true to his words, made wholesome changes to the team that faced the Azerbaijani side on Tuesday with only Courtois, Pedro, Azpilicueta, Kante, Alonso and Fabregas retaining their place from the victory against Leicester last Saturday with Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta, Willian and Batshuayi starting against Qarabag. The coach certainly had this match in mind when substituting Kante and Azpilicueta midway through the second half on Tuesday but it’s yet to be seen how we lineup against Arsenal with Nottingham Forest visiting Stamford Bridge just three days after. Zappacosta surely endeared himself to the Stamford Bridge crowd with his displays on Tuesday but Moses should be back at the RWB position for the visit of Arsenal and Morata too should be well rested and raring to add to his three goals for the Blues. Cahill got his first minutes on Tuesday since his unfortunate red card on the opening day of the season but getting into the team will not be a given with the way Antonio Rudiger played in his absence. With Bakayoko only coming into the fray in the second half on Tuesday he should be in line to again partner Kante in central midfield depending on what’s in the coach’s playbook for this match
Last Five Matches: WWLDL
Injuries: Danny Drinkwater (Muscular) –Doubt
Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return to Arsenal’s first team with a late cameo against Cologne in the Europa League, but unless a miracle happens between now and Sunday he’s not likely to be included in the team to travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Like Conte, Arsene Wenger rested some of his players ahead of the match against Chelsea with Cech, Xhaka, Welbeck and record signing Lacazette not involved on Thursday. Wenger added both Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey to Arsenal’s injury list making them doubts for the match on Sunday. Wenger has continued with his three at the back formation even though he doesn’t seem to have the players for it and he was exposed by Liverpool, but he’s likely going to continue with it on Sunday. Nacho Monreal and Shokdran Mustafi playing either side of Laurent Koscielny at the back with Hector Bellerin and Saed Kolasinac taking the wingback positions. Xhaka and either of Ramsey, Coquelin and Elneny playing in central midfield. It’s yet to be seen whether Alexis Sanchez gets a starting berth or if Wenger keeps faith with Welbeck and Lacazette just like he did against Bournemouth last Saturday.
Last 5 matches: WLLWW
Injuries: Mesut Ozil (Muscular) – Doubt; Aaron Ramsey (Calf) –Doubt; Santi Cazorla (Ankle) –Out;
David Luiz vs. Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck has finally been able to put a consistent run of games together without injury since leaving Old Trafford for the Emirates three season ago and he seems to be scoring on a more regular basis too with three already this season. David Luiz will have to stay alert at all times to keep him quiet if Wenger chooses to play him in the centre of the attack rather than on the wings.
Victor Moses vs. Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez is a tough customer for any defender on his day but Moses should do enough to limit his impact in the game as the Chilean seem unstable after his ‘dream’ move to the Etihad Stadium collapsed on transfer deadline day. Can’t wait to see how this duel plays out on Sunday.
N’Golo Kante vs. Granit Xhaka
These two have contrasting qualities but they both have the same mandate for their respective teams which is to stop the opposition’s play while initiating your team’s offence. Knowing how hard Xhaka goes into his tackles sometimes, Kante should be careful not to let the Swiss send him to the treatment room prematurely.
Arsene Wenger will be looking to get one over one of his biggest rivals this season when he leads his team into battle against Antonio Conte’s charges on Sunday. We wait to see whether the two extra days afforded to Chelsea with them playing on Tuesday and Arsenal on Thursday will count for something by the time this massive game kicks off. This is a very important game for Antonio Conte’s men, irrespective of the result in Man City’s game at Watford on Sunday or United’s game at home to Everton soon after the end of this game, so as to keep the momentum going. Hopefully by the time I come your way again we would have recorded our fourth win in five Premier League matches this season but until then, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Soccer.IndoNewyork
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