The Big Match Preview: Arsenal vs Chelsea

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Sunday 24th January – 16:00 – Emirates Stadium

Arsenal host Chelsea this weekend in what is “not at the moment” a rivalry, according to Blues interim manager Guus Hiddink. It’s hard to disagree, with the Gunners flying high joint top of the league and drew 0-0 with Stoke City last week. They are unbeaten in nine Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium, winning seven and conceding just four goals in that run. However, Hiddink inflicted Arsenal’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat at the Emirates when his Chelsea side won 4-1 in May 2009. Seven years on, and the Dutchman’s team sit in 14th place, but are on the longest unbeaten run in the division (six games), with their most recent fixture a thrilling 3-3 draw against Everton, with John Terry scoring a controversial 98th minute equaliser. Are the good times beginning to return to the West London side? The best test comes on Sunday against the league leaders.

Team News

Arsenal

  • Influential pair Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are fit to face Chelsea after overcoming respective hamstring and foot injuries.
  • New signing Mohamed Elneny awaits his debut, while the game comes too soon for fellow midfielder Tomas Rosicky who lacks match fitness following a knee injury.
  • Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Francis Coquelin (all knee) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) all remain out.

Chelsea

  • Playmaker Eden Hazard has returned to training following a groin injury and could be available.
  • Diego Costa suffered a bruised shin against Everton last weekend but is expected to be fit.
  • Fellow striker Falcao (muscle injury) remains on the sideline as Gus Hiddink’s only definite absentee.

The Key Battle: Mesut Ozil vs Nemanja Matic

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Is it a coincidence that Mesut Ozil missed Arsenal’s 0-0 draw at Stoke last weekend when the Gunners failed to score for the first time in six games? The German has been the main creative spark in their squad this season, finally showing the form that earned him high praise at Real Madrid.

He is fit to return on Sunday, and with three goals and 16 league assists so far this season, Ozil should be pivotal once again – wearing Adidas’ new laceless boots. He just oozes class, doesn’t he?

If selected, Nemanja Matic will make his 100th Chelsea appearance, but it might not be a celebratory afternoon. Much like the rest of the Chelsea squad, the Serbian has been a shadow of the player that made it into the PFA Team of the Season in 2014-15.

According to the press, Matic is considering his future at Stamford Bridge after his poor season. His confidence is most certainly low after he was substituted after 55 minutes of last weekend’s draw with Everton after another lacklustre display.

Previous Meetings

Arsenal wins = 72 / Chelsea wins = 61 / Draws = 56

*According to en.wikipedia.org

Last Meeting: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (19th September 2015)

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Premier League champions Chelsea won only their second league game this season against nine-man Arsenal in a fiery match at Stamford Bridge. Defender Kurt Zouma – preferred to dropped captain John Terry – headed the opening goal after 53 minutes and Chelsea secured only their second win in six Premier League games this season when Eden Hazard’s shot flew in off Calum Chambers late on. Arsenal defender Gabriel was sent off seconds before half-time for kicking out at Diego Costa. It came at the end of a lengthy spat after the striker had shoved his hand into the face of Laurent Koscielny three times. It handed the momentum to Chelsea and Arsenal’s misery was complete when Santi Cazorla was given a second yellow card for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.

Managers Quotes

CREDIT: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH
CREDIT: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH

Arsene Wenger: “Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, look at their squad. It’s a big game because of the quality of the players on the pitch. We play at the Emirates and know how important it will be to win this game.”

Guus Hiddink: “Arsenal are doing very well and making a good battle for first position. And Chelsea are way down under at this moment. Reality.”

The Referee – Mark Clattenburg

CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES/HARRY ENGELS
CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES/HARRY ENGELS
  • Last Premier League game: Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United (17th January 2016) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
  • Last Arsenal game: West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Arsenal (21st November 2015) – 5 yellow cards, 0 red cards
  • Last Chelsea game: Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea (14th December 2015) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards

Stat of the Match

If the Gunners fail to score on Sunday it will equal their longest run without a goal versus any opponent in the Premier League (six games v Liverpool, 1997-2000).

Where Can I Watch It?

Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 3:30pm, with kick-off half an hour later. The highlights will then be shown on BBC One’s Match of the Day 2 on Sunday evening at 10:30pm.

My Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea

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Although Chelsea seem to have improved under Guus Hiddink, Arsenal are on a good run of form so I think they will get the win in North London. I think it will be a close, low-scoring game though, with perhaps just the one goal in it – scored by the returning Alexis Sanchez. It will make the gap between the two sides 22 points.

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