Why Arsenal must beat Chelsea (4/1) to keep their Premier League dreams alive

Chelsea v Arsenal, Premier League, February 7, 2010

Chelsea 5/6; Draw 11/4; Arsenal 4/1

With Manchester United facing rock bottom side Portsmouth on Saturday, Chelsea will likely face Arsenal looking to make up their two point lead on the champions. In turn the Blues can truly knock Arsene Wenger’s side out the title race by moving nine points clear of the Gunners and handing out another morale sapping defeat to this young Arsenal side. (Chelsea are 21/20 to win the title, Arsenal are 10/1.)

Both teams come into this match off the back off disappointing results and the pressure of the situation surrounding the match could see a tight encounter. Chelsea will though be buoyed by their comfortable win over Arsenal in November and in Didier Drogba have a striker who simply loves playing against the Gunners.

Drogba’s double in the 3-0 win at the Emirates took his tally to 10 goals in 11 matches against Arsenal and Arsene Wenger must rue the fact his side didn’t face Chelsea during the Africa Cup of Nations. The Ivorian striker has scored some crucial goals against the Gunners, including in the 2007 Carling Cup final and the winner in last season’s FA Cup semi-final. (Chelsea are 15/8 to score in both halves.)

Ironically, whilst we had been served a deluge of commentary claiming Chelsea would struggle during the Africa Cup of Nations without their African stars, Carlo Ancelotti’s men instead won all their matches in January. Their 1-1 draw with Hull on Tuesday, in which Drogba scored the equaliser, halted a fine run which has given a resurgent Manchester United belief of a fourth successive title.

Ancelotti will reportedly bring Jon Obi Mikel back into the starting line-up to stop Arsenal’s midfield from dominating. (Chelsea are 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.) Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard will, as ever, be goal threats, and Michael Ballack’s runs from deep will also have to be checked by a Gunners midfield that struggled to stop the runners from deep of Manchester United last Sunday.

The defeat at the Emirates left Arsene Wenger hugely frustrated and the French boss will hope his side can lift themselves from yet another chastening defeat. Arsenal have been comprehensively outplayed at home by both their title rivals and probably need to win at Stamford Bridge to stay in contention.

Despite their poor performance, one would imagine Wenger will go with more or less the same team that lost to United. Nicklas Bendtner may be included to add some physical presence up front but the likes of Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy and Denilson who all struggled so publicly, should all start.

Cesc Fabregas’ future at Arsenal has again been the source of much speculation in the past week with the Spaniard thought to be ready to return to Spain in the summer. This is a big match from the Spaniard but he will need help from the likes of Alexandre Song and Andrey Arshavin who will need to be at the top of their game to stop a Chelsea side that hasn’t lost at home in 2009/2010. (Arsenal are 11/1 to win both halves.)

Arsenal have produced some heroic performances at Stamford Bridge and will need some inspiration from somewhere. Last season Robin van Persie’s brace secured a surprise win and the likes of Nwankwo Kanu (October 1999) and Nigel Winterburn (September 1997) have etched themselves into folklore at Chelsea.

Of course, a match preview of this encounter could not fail to mention the man of the moment. Chelsea captain John Terry could face a difficult day with more revelations set to be released by the Sunday papers and Fabio Capello likely to speak about his extra marital affairs at the Euro 2012 draw. Whether Terry has much to do though remains to be seen and it would be no surprise if Arsenal are battered into submission by Didier Drogba yet again.

101gg predicts: Chelsea 3 – Arsenal 1 (16/1)

Chelsea 5/6; Draw 11/4; Arsenal 4/1

Full match odds here.