Sunday 26th April – 16:00 – Emirates Stadium
We could effectively see an end to the title race by Sunday evening, with second placed Arsenal hosting leaders Chelsea tomorrow afternoon. If the Blues are victorious, they will go 13 points clear at the top of the table with just five games to play, so Arsene Wenger needs to end his Jose Mourinho hoodoo in order for his side to have some chance of becoming surprise title winners. Wenger has never beaten Mourinho when the Portuguese manager is in the opposition dugout. The Gunners are on a very good run though, having won their last eight league games – their best since the invincibles – but needed extra-time and a goalkeeping error to beat Championship side Reading in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final. At the same time as that game at Wembley, Chelsea were also victorious, with Eden Hazard’s goal enough to overcome a strong challenge from Manchester United. The Blues are in action again on Wednesday night against Leicester, but top spot could all be wrapped by then with a win at the Emirates.
The Key Battle: Francis Coquelin v Cesc Fabregas
All eyes will be on Cesc Fabregas as he returns to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his departure to Barcelona in 2011. Arsene Wenger opted not to re-sign him last summer, and the Spanish pass master will be eager to impress against his old side.
Fabregas has added a new dimension to Chelsea’s midfield since his arrival in the summer, and his total of 16 assists is by far the highest in the Premier League.
The 27-year-old has not quite hit the heights of his early season performances since the turn of the year, but Wenger is all too aware of the threat he still poses.
Francis Coquelin could be the key to how Fabregas fares. The duo were team-mates during Fabregas’s final three years in north London, but Coquelin has had to bide his time for his chance.
The 24-year-old has been a revelation at the base of Arsenal’s midfield in recent months, averaging more tackles (3.5) and more interceptions (3.8) per game than any Arsenal player in the Premier League.
Wenger will hope for another commanding performance from Coquelin. If he delivers, Fabregas could find it difficult to make his mark on the game.
- Per Mertesacker is rated “50-50” after hobbling out of last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final with an ankle problem.
- Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are not match-fit after ankle and groin injuries respectively.
- Mathieu Debuchy earned a first start since his return from injury last weekend although Hector Bellerin is likely to be favoured at right-back. The youngster missed the weekend cup clash with an ankle injury but has been passed fit.
- Jose Mourinho will make a late decision on whether to risk Diego Costa’s hamstring.
- Fellow striker Loic Remy is out with a calf injury so teenager Dominic Solanke could come onto the bench.
- An unchanged back-line is expected following consecutive clean sheets, with Filipe Luis and Zouma set for bench roles.
Arsenal wins = 66 / Chelsea wins = 55 / Draws = 48
Last Meeting: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (October 5th 2014)
Chelsea cemented their position at the top of the Premier League with victory over Arsenal. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger squared up in an ugly first-half moment when the Frenchman shoved ‘the Special One’ in the chest in Chelsea’s technical area after Gary Cahill’s challenge on Alexis Sanchez. A semblance of order was restored although the tension still resurfaced – but as so often, it was Mourinho who had the last word. Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty put them on their way after he was fouled by Laurent Koscielny, while Diego Costa’s ninth goal in seven games wrapped up the win.
Stat of the Match
Arsenal have failed to score in any of their last four meetings with Chelsea (in all competitions). They have conceded 10 in those four games.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live on Sunday afternoon, with coverage starting at 3:30pm, half an hour before kick-off. The highlights will then be on Match of the Day 2 that evening on BBC One at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
I didn’t back Chelsea last week which was a mistake, but I’m not saying they’ll win again. Arsenal need to improve hugely on their performance against Reading, but the fight for the title should mean they really get into Chelsea as Arsene Wenger really wants to beat Jose Mourinho. The Blues will hold firm though to pretty much confirm their place as champions in an entertaining 1-1 draw. Goals from Cazorla and Hazard.