On Wednesday night a meeting with a North London club put us on the ropes, with Robbie Keane’s 88th minute goal for Spurs a huge blow to Chelsea’s slim title hopes in an incredible 4-4 draw. Another heavyweight knock-out on Sunday to our northern neighbours, and the Blues will almost certainly be down and out. Arsenal are the visitors, and with the Gunners two points ahead of Chelsea, ground needs to be made up. Fast.The mid-week draw was as unbelievable as it was catastrophic, with the visit to White Hart Lane our game in hand on Arsene Wenger’s side, and ultimately wasted. With Manchester United winning on Wednesday, Chelsea are left chasing, and the only ball left in our court is the fact that both title contenders have to visit Stamford Bridge, where we hold that absurd record of impregnability in the Premier League.
Of course, Arsenal were the last team to win in SW6, back in February 2004. But the team of today will be desperate to preserve the unbeaten run, and they could be boosted with the news of a possible return to action for goalkeeper Petr Cech. The giant shot-stopper is facing a fitness test ahead of the game to determine whether or not his ankle injury-which has kept him out of recent games-has recovered enough for him to stand between the sticks on Sunday. There could also be recalls for Michael Ballack and Nicolas Anelka, who would be lining up against one of his many former teams.
Also set to start against their old team-mates are the infamous pair, William Gallas and Ashley Cole. Gallas has been a talking point in the CFCnet forums as of late, with huge discussion over the expected reaction he will receive when he sets foot on the Stamford Bridge pitch for Arsenal, while Cole has been in the national press after an over-enthusiastic tackle on Alan Hutton in the Spurs game on Wednesday. Both players will be key on Sunday, not just in footballing terms but also for atmospheric reasons!
Gallas will not be joined by Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby in the starting XI with the pair ruled out through injury. Striker Robin van Persie continues his fight for full fitness after a season-long knee injury while fellow strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor hasn’t scored a league goal since getting his hair cut. So we all know what will happen on Sunday now. His dry spell has coincided with a poor Arsenal run, stemming from the injury to Eduardo da Silva in the draw against Birmingham a month ago to the day. That 2-2 draw was followed up by stalemates against Aston Villa, Wigan, and most recently Middlesbrough, where a late Kolo Toure goal stole the Gunners a point at the Emirates Stadium.
This poor run of form has to be capitalised on by the Blues, who would be sending out a real statement if they could win on Sunday. With Avram Grant’s record against the ‘big’ teams under scrutiny-proved in part by the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal back in December-a defeat is unthinkable. The 4-4 draw against Tottenham needs to be banished immediately, and three points at Stamford Bridge would probably make us all forget that debacle, particularly if Liverpool can do us a favour and take points from Manchester United earlier in the day. Everyone associated with the club has promised us that the title race is far from over. By Sunday evening we will either be still in with a shout, or simply down and out on our Arse.
Prediction: Thankfully these Grand Slam Sundays are usually drab affairs with few goals, which should suit us more than the razzle, dazzle style of Arsenal. Remember when we were winning week in, week out but with 1-0’s, and we were all complaining that it was boring? I can’t think of anything I’d want more at this moment in time so I’ll go for that. A scrappy, tight, dull 1-0 win for the Blues with Ashley Cole knocking it in off his wallet, just to really send the Arsenal fans home unhappy.