Chelsea are aiming to kill off any lingering Premier League title hopes Arsenal have when the London rivals meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s Blues dropped two points with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday night, but Arsenal’s shock 2-1 home defeat to Watford – coupled with Tottenham’s Sunderland stalemate – meant Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table to nine points.
Chelsea increase take their advantage on Arsenal to 12 points with a win in Saturday’s early kick-off, and the Gunners are up against it with midfield injury problems mounting and Arsene Wenger set to sit among Chelsea fans as he serves his touchline ban.
While a win would by no means seal the title for Chelsea as early as February, a victory for Arsenal would give the Gunners – and the rest of the chasing pack – hope that Conte’s men can be caught.
Chelsea: David Luiz admitted after Chelsea’s draw at Liverpool that he has been carrying a knee injury which means he cannot train every day, though the Brazilian still turned in an impressive display at Anfield with a superb free-kick goal.
Conte has no further injury concerns for Saturday’s clash with Arsenal, although the Italian coach may privately be concerned with Eden Hazard’s lacklustre displays of late, as well as a below-par performance from Victor Moses at Anfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been used in central midfield with Wenger’s options limited of late, though he himself was limping towards the end of the Emirates defeat on Tuesday and faces a ftness test on Friday – along with Olivier Giroud.
The England international’s return would be a much-needed boost considering Santi Cazorla is still out and Mohamed Elneny remains at the African Cup of Nations.
Chelsea starting XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Hazard, Pedro, Costa
Arsenal starting XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck
Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September was their heaviest against them since April 1997 (also 3-0). They were previously unbeaten in nine Premier League games against Arsenal (W6 D3).
Arsenal have not done the double over Chelsea in the same season since 2003/04 – the season in which they last won the Premier League.
The last Chelsea manager to fail to win either of his first two league games against the Gunners was Jose Mourinho in 2004/05, while the last Chelsea boss to lose both was Glenn Hoddle in 1993/94.
Arsene Wenger has lost his last four league games at Stamford Bridge. The only away ground where he’s lost more in succession is Old Trafford (2009-2013).
Diego Costa has scored in two of his four league games against Arsenal and has been booked in the other two.
Chelsea have won eight successive Premier League home games – their best run in the competition since a sequence of 10 wins that ended in January 2015. The aggregate score in these eight games is 24-3 in Chelsea’s favour.
Chelsea to win: E19/20
Arsenal to win: 33/10
Arsene Wenger will be expecting a response from his side after the Watford defeat, but this is just about the worst match that could have been chosen to follow it. Chelsea have been imperious at home and have a good record against the Gunners too, so we’re backing the hosts to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Our Predictions: Chelsea 2-0 arsenal