The task of facing Chelsea in a football game at Stamford Bridge once used to be the most difficult away fixture in the Barclays Premier League and it was extremely rare for the travelling clubs to come away with their pride intact, let alone any points.
The Blues famously enjoyed an extraordinary run of 86 matches (or four years) unbeaten at home in the league between February 2004 and October 2008 before a then Rafa Benitez-led Liverpool ended that run through a deflected Xabi Alonso-strike.
But that era of home domination is long gone and Chelsea now struggle in front of their fans on a regular basis. Don’t be fooled by the betting odds at https://sports.bwin.com/en/
It means that this particular fixture could not have come at a better time than this for Arsenal, who are 3/1 with bwin to defeat Chelsea this Sunday.
The Gunners have also been struggling for results of late and barely managed to get past Swansea in the FA Cup on Wednesday, thanks to Jack Wilshere’s solitary goal in the 86th minute. They were humbled 2-0 at home by Manchester City last weekend, which followed a couple of lackluster away draws.
Arsenal ran out 5-3 winners at Stamford Bridge last season when Robin van Persie’s brace in the last five minutes stunned the Blues. The Dutch superstar now plies his trade in Manchester and therefore, Wenger will need someone else to step up this time.
Arsenal Team News
Mikel Arteta suffered a calf injury in training last week and has been ruled out for the rest of January. As a result, fit-again midfielder Abou Diaby is expected to take his position in the starting line-up.
Central defender Laurent Koscielny’s one-match ban is over and he is back at coach Arsene Wenger’s disposal but Tomas Rosicky’s calf injury has still not healed completely. The Czech playmaker will not play any part against the Blues.
Another player to be unavailable is Gervinho, who has linked up with the Ivory Coast squad in Dubai to prepare for the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is Arsenal’s only long-term injury absentee.
Chelsea Team News
Chelsea, who are 9/10 with bwin, have no fresh injury concerns at the moment, with defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu (knee) being their only player nursing a knock.
Their African pair of Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel have linked up with the Nigerian international squad for the 2013 AFCON and so they are unavailable for club duty.
In-form forward Demba Ba is likely to start ahead of his misfiring colleague Fernando Torres.
Coach Rafa Benitez had benched Branislav Ivanovic in the 2-2 draw with Southampton in the midweek due to his horrendous performance in the loss to Swansea City last weekend. But the big Serb is expected to be reinstated into the Blues starting line-up on Sunday at the expense of Gary Cahill.
Another selection dilemma for the Chelsea boss is whether or not to start with captain John Terry, who has played just a few minutes of competitive football since recovering from his knee injury.
Possible Starting Line-ups
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott
Benitez recently expressed his displeasure at dropping points at home and vowed to do something about it immediately.
“We cannot be happy drawing at home. The next game has to be totally different. We have to think how we can improve on the next one. It is analysing and trying to coach the players in the right way. We know the problems we have when other teams are well organised,” the Spaniard said.
The problem is that without the leadership of Terry, their backline never looks assuring and with the 32-year-old centre-half unlikely to start on Sunday, chances are that Arsenal will have their way with Chelsea.
Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal