Arsenal v Chelsea, Premier League, November 29, 2009
Arsenalâ€™s Premier League title credentials face a real test this Sunday as league leaders Chelsea come to the Emirates looking to build an eight point gap over their London rivals.
The Blues have been in scintillating form in recent weeks and blew away Wolves last Saturday with a number of players missing. Since losing at Aston Villa in October, Carlo Ancelottiâ€™s side have now four successive games in the league, scoring 14 and conceding none.
This recent run also included the 1-0 home win over Manchester United, and a victory at the Emirates would seriously confirm their position as clear favourites to win the Premier League title. (Chelsea are 4/6 favourites to win the Premier League.)
Things are also looking good on the injury front for Chelsea. Frank Lampard (7/2 to score & Chelsea win) is set to return from a thigh injury picked up whilst training with England and Didier Drogba (15/2 to score first & Chelsea win) returned for the 1-0 win at Porto on Wednesday night in the Champions League.
Facing an Arsenal side that have been terrific at home this season, it will be intriguing to see Ancelottiâ€™s game plan. Michael Essien (11/2 to score) was hugely impressive in a more attacking role in the victory over Wolves but the Italian tactician may play the Ghanaian dynamo further back to negate the influence of Cesc Fabregas (11/2 to score & Arsenal win).
The Arsenal captain issued a rallying cry earlier this week following the defeat at Sunderland last Saturday. Fabregas: â€œThe Chelsea game is vital, we have to win, and we will be ready for it. Chelsea are a great team, one of the best in Europe, they are very strong and have been playing together for a long time. They know each other very well, and you can see that on the pitch. I respect them a lot, but I know what we can do as well. If we play like we can at our best, then we can beat them.â€
The Spanish schemer will be key in this encounter as with Robin van Persie out injured and Andrey Arshavin (13/2 to score first) struggling for form, Fabregas becomes Arsenalâ€™s match winner. Without RVP and Nicklas Bendtner, Theo Walcott (10/3 to score), Carlos Vela (2/1 to score) or Eduardo da SilvaÂ (2/1 to score) have all been mooted to start in the main striker role against a Chelsea side that have conceded just eight goals this season.
Despite the defeat at the Stadium of Light and the lackluster victory over Standard Liege in the Champions League, the Gunners have got a lot to be positive about. They have a game in hand on Chelsea and prior to the international break they played some stunning football which included the 3-0 win (22/1) over local rivals Spurs.
Arsene Wengerâ€™s biggest headache is at left back where both Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs have long term injuries. Armand Traore may come in again as he did at Sunderland or we may see Mikael Silvestre, which should encourage Chelsea to attack down their right. (Arsenal are 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
Last season the fixtures between these two sides ended in away wins. At the Emirates in April, Guus Hiddinkâ€™s Chelsea smashed the Gunners 4-1 (66/1) in probably the best performance under the Dutchman. A similar emphatic victory and Ancelotti could be on his way to emulating Jose Mourinho and winning a title in his first season in English football.
101gg predicts: Arsenal 2 â€“ Chelsea 4 (80/1)
Full match odds here.