Arsenal vs Chelsea
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Referee: Anthony Taylor
TV: BT Sport 1
The biggest game of the weekend without doubt comes in the London derby between two sides who have a decorated history with one another. Without Mourinho or Wenger this derby may be less spicy than usual but that doesn’t mean the match itself is not without drama and consequence.
Chelsea are looking to maintain their hold on the top four but their hosts sit just six points off them with themselves and Manchester United hot on their tails. The match could potentially be the debut of Gonzalo Higuain who sealed his loan move to Stamford Bridge during the week.
Arsenal meanwhile have had an interesting season so far under new manager, Unai Emery. The Gunners stormed away from Manchester United at the start of the campaign yet their recent downward spiral and introduction of Solksjaer at United has resulted in the Red Devils catching up with Emery’s side. A victory here would be an invaluable boost for both the squad and the fans and may even give them that boost of momentum to catch Chelsea and Spurs in the race for the top four.
Arsenal: Arsenal will be without Rob Holding, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Danny Welbeck for this vital Saturday evening clash. Torreira looks set to come back into the centre of the midfield to play alongside Xhaka.
Arsenal’s main threat will of course be Lacazette and Aubameyang, both of whom have proved absolutely lethal so far this season. The pace and strength of the two strikers will prove a handful for Chelsea’s defence and the latter will look to build on his 14 goals this campaign.
At the same time, the back three of Arsenal may have a new Argentinian threat to deal with, along with the existing threat of Hazard and either Willian, Pedro or Hudson Odoi so seeing if they are up to that task will be of the highest intrigue.
Chelsea: Chelsea will be without Ruben Loftus-Cheek but apart from that they seem to have a fully fit team to face the Gunners. The big question will be who starts on the wings. If Higuain’s deal has not been finalised it seems like Hazard will keep his role as a false nine. Then the question falls on which two of Hudson-Odoi, Willian or Pedro start on the flanks. One imagines that Hudson-Odoi will stay on the bench but I don’t see that going down too well with the Chelsea fans.
The midfield and defence will likely remain unchanged as they have done all season, but it is yet to be seen whether it will be enough to keep the Arsenal forwards in check.
Chelsea have traditionally been strong in this fixture, Didier Drogba especially enjoying success in the past – we shall see if this batch of Chelsea forwards can keep this going.
Predicted Starting XIs
Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Aubameyang, Lacazette, Iwobi
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Hazard, Pedro
Score Prediction: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
As much as it pains me to say it, I cannot see Chelsea winning this one. The pace and power of Aubemayang and Lacazette will just be too much for the Blues defence to handle. Sarri’s side will come close and Arsenal will by no means run away with it, but I do believe that the Gunners will have too much.