On Sunday, Chelsea and Arsenal will meet in another chapter in their recent storied rivalry. This time, the London derby will give each side a chance to show off their title credentials. Chelsea enter Sunday’s contest with an eight point lead over Arsenal, though Arsenal have a game in hand. A Chelsea win would put a huge dent in Arsenal’s title hopes, while putting the Blues in the driver’s seat to hold the Premier League trophy at season’s end.
Injuries and Form
The form of both teams could not be different coming into this match. Prior to the international break, Arsenal were in great form with convincing wins over West Ham, Tottenham, Wolves, and AZ Alkmaar. After the break, the Gunners lost at the Stadium of Light and won at home to Standard Liege.
Part of the drop in form could be attributed to the growing injury list during the internationals. Leading scorer Robin van Persie was lost to a sprained ankle (though I hear he’s helped the market for horse placenta grow) while with Holland and second choice left back, Kieran Gibbs, was lost against Standard Liege with a broken metatarsal. Arsenal will also be missing Gael Clichy and Nicklas Bendtner to injury, with Theo Walcott unavailable to play a full 90 minutes. William Gallas also suffered a knock against Standard Liege and his status for Sunday is unknown.
Chelsea enter as the form team having not lost a match since the October 17 defeat at Villa Park, and have only drawn once this season in all competitions. Since returning from international break, Chelsea saw off Wolves, basically inside 12 minutes, and defeated Porto 1-0 while resting a number of players.
Chelsea are also relatively injury free. Jose Bosingwa will be out with his knee injury, while Frank Lampard is nursing a thigh injury but is likely to try and play. Michael Essien picked up a slight knock to his knee against Wolves, but was rested for 60 minutes against Porto and should fine.
Arsenal have largely scrapped the 4-4-2 this season, with Arsene Wenger trying to emulate the style that Barcelona have played in recent seasons. 4-3-3 is the preferred formation, with Cesc Fabregas as the captain and playmaker in the midfield. Cesc has played well in this system, registering 9 goals and 13 assists in all competitions. His partners have been Alex Song and Abou Diaby, though Diaby is likely to miss out and be replaced by Denilson, who returned midweek. The back four should be interesting, especially if Gallas can’t play. Bakary Sagna will be given the nod at right back and with injuries at the left back spot, Mikael Silvestre or Armand Traore will man that position. Thomas Vermaelen has settled well and partners Gallas, though if Gallas cannot play, Phillipe Senderos may get the start. The front men will be a selection of three from Andrei Arshavin, Samir Nasri, Eduardo, and Tomas Rosicky, who is finally fit.
For Chelsea, the lineup should see some players that were rested at the weekend. Ivanovic has gotten better at the right back spot, with Terry and Carvalho in the middle. Ashley Cole should return at left back, though Zhirkov should be an option too. If Lampard is able to play, he’ll play in the midfield with Essien and Michael Ballack. If he can’t, his replacement will probably be Florent Malouda. Joe Cole should be back at the tip of the diamond given the poor form shown by Deco this season. The front two will be Drogba and Anelka.
This is a bad time for Arsenal to have to face us. At the moment, they’re missing a number of first team players and they’re missing their leading striker. Also, it will be a huge blow to them if Gallas can’t play. We all know how Senderos has faired against Drogba in the past. In fact, Senderos probably has nightmares of those beatings. Questions have also been asked of the height of their back line (their first choice CB’s are under 5’11”). They haven’t been tested in that area, but they will be on Sunday, especially when the 6’2” Drogba, 6’2” Ballack, 6’2” Ivanovic, 6’2” Terry, and 6’0” Carvalho get into the box for set pieces. I think we should have the quality to see them off and barring a major collapse, we should be in prime spot to get back the League title.