Sunday 5th October – 14:05 – Stamford Bridge
The runaway leaders of the Premier League, Chelsea, host injury-ravaged Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a box-office Super Sunday clash. It will be the first time the capital rivals have faced off since Chelsea’s 6-0 mauling of the Gunners back in March and Arsene Wenger will be desperate to restore pride in the London derby. The French tactician celebrated 18 years in charge of Arsenal with a resounding 4-1 UEFA Champions League triumph over Galatasaray in midweek, but now focuses attention to halving their six-point deficit on Chelsea at the Premier League summit. Jose Mourinho’s side were also successful on the continent this week, beating Sporting Lisbon 1-0 at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. The Blues and The Gunners enter round seven of the campaign as the two remaining unbeaten side, though, the Blues have claimed five victories in their opening six matches to sit top while Wenger’s side have been held to a draw on four occasions meaning that they sit fourth. Whether both will remain undefeated going into the international break seems unlikely – there have only been two draws in the last ten meetings between the London sides.
The Key Battle: Cesc Fabregas vs Mathieu Flamini
Cesc Fabregas will be the centre of attention on Sunday as he returns to his former club, and his role will be vital tactically too. Flamini, after being hailed as the defensive midfielder Arsenal had been desperate for since his departure, has since displayed the rashness and tactical naïveté that lead to him being a figure of fun in Serie A a few years ago.
Fabregas has been what Chelsea lacked last season, able to play deep alongside Matic but still initiate attacks quickly with long passes and support the forward players with late runs. Flamini must pressure the Spaniard the moment he gets the ball and prevent him releasing Costa on the counter.
The Spaniard is yet to score a league goal for the Blues, so for it to come on Sunday against his former club would create more than a few headlines. Don’t be surprised to see it happen if his former teammate gives him the opportunity.
- Diego Costa is set for his third start in the space of nine days despite an ongoing hamstring problem.
- Loic Remy is the club’s only other fit striker as Didier Drogba is sidelined by an ankle injury, while midfielder Ramires is out with a groin strain.
- Cesc Fabregas is set to make his first start against the club he spent eight years at and was reportedly offered to this summer before joining Chelsea
- The Gunners remain without Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey because of respective calf and hamstring problems but Nacho Monreal may return from a back injury.
- Jack Wilshere should be fit to start despite hurting his ankle last weekend in the North London derby.
- Abou Diaby will not be risked because of a hip problem, while Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud are long-term absentees.
Chelsea wins = 54 / Arsenal wins = 66 / Draws = 48
Last Meeting: Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal turned out to be an occasion to forget for the Frenchman as his 10-man team were crushed by Chelsea. Arsenal were two behind after seven minutes, with first Samuel Eto’o and then Andre Schurrle benefiting from clinical Chelsea counter-attacking. Eden Hazard’s penalty after a Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handball all but finished the match as a contest. Oscar scored twice before Mohamed Salah inflicted more pain on the Gunners.Substitute Salah’s strike completed a miserable afternoon for the visitors, who appeared to have the wrong player sent off when Kieran Gibbs was dismissed following Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first-half handball. It was Jose Mourinho’s biggest Premier League victory as Chelsea manager and also the first time in Chelsea’s history that they have scored six times against their London rivals.
Stat of the Match
Arsene Wenger has failed to win any of his 11 previous encounters with Jose Mourinho (D5, L6).
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports are showing the game live from 1 pm tomorrow, with the game kicking off at 2:05 pm.
My Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal
Diego Costa looks almost unstoppable on his current form, and if he is at his formidable best tomorrow, expect him to hit the back of the net at least once. The Arsenal defence looks reasonably easy to exploit for Chelsea’s impressive attack, and without their own creative genius Aaron Ramsey, The Gunners will have no reply. Costa to score twice and Hazard once for the hosts, with Danny Welbeck bagging the visitor’s only goal.