Arsenal vs. Chelsea – 4:00pm local time on Sunday, January 24, 2016 at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal – $2.05 at WilliamHill.com
Draw – $3.50 at Sportsbet
Chelsea – $3.80 at www.Sportsbet.com
Arsenal – 1st
Chelsea – 14th
Arsenal – L W W D D
Chelsea – D D W D D
Last five EPL meetings
Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea
If Arsenal can’t end their derby curse against Chelsea this season, perhaps they never will.
It could hardly be set up any better for Arsene Wenger’s mob: they are at home, they are top of the table, and they are playing a team languishing in the bottom half.
It looks a simple enough proposition on paper for the Gunners, who are undefeated in their last nine Premier League games at Emirates Stadium (seven wins, two draws) and have conceded only four goals in the process.
But they have already lost to their crosstown rivals in EPL 2015-16, gifting the Blues one of precious few victories prior to Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
That result extended Arsenal’s winless streak against Chelsea in the Premier League to eight matches.
Not only that, the giants of northern London have now failed to score in this fixture in six attempts since their 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in January 2013.
That’s more than eight hours of football without registering a goal.
Throw in the fact that three of the last four clashes between these two at the Emirates have ended 0-0, and the outlook isn’t all that promising for the home side.
Wenger will also have to contend with a bogey man in the opposition technical area.
Guus Hiddink was at the helm when Chelsea won 4-1 at the Emirates in 2009 – Arsenal’s biggest home defeat in the league since leaving Highbury nearly 10 years ago.
The Dutchman is back in charge of the Pensioners after succeeding the sacked Mourinho last month, and the ship has certainly steadied under his hand.
Chelsea haven’t lost since Hiddink returned as interim manager, picking up 10 points in six matches – the longest current unbeaten run in the English Premier League.
That record was in serious jeopardy against Everton last weekend, but John Terry’s 98th minute strike kept the revival rolling as the visitors secured a miraculous point at Goodison Park.
They aren’t out of the woods yet, with only four points separating them from the relegation zone, but the mood is decidedly brighter at the Bridge as they prepare for the half-hour drive to Holloway on Sunday.
Arsenal team news
The Arsenal attack looked a little lost against Stoke without Mesut Ozil, but the German playmaker is tipped to return from a minor toe injury this weekend.
Also in line to face Chelsea is Chilean star Alexis Sanchez, who has missed nearly two months of action with a persistent hamstring problem.
Jack Wilshere is still several weeks away as he recovers from a leg fracture, while Tomas Rosicky, Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck are all back in training.
Possible Arsenal XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Giroud, Walcott.
Chelsea team news
The Blues could be boosted by the return of Belgian star Eden Hazard, who hasn’t featured since suffering a groin strain in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at the start of January.
The news is less happy concerning Diego Costa, with the in-form Brazilian striker set to miss after bruising his tibia bone at Everton last weekend.
With Radamel Falcao still struggling for fitness (let alone form), Costa’s sidelining could see French forward Loic Remy thrust into the starting lineup for only the second time this season.
Possible Chelsea XI: Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Matic, Mikel, Fabregas, Willian, Hazard, Remy.
– Arsenal to win ($2.05 at WilliamHill.com)
– Under 2.5 goals ($1.87 at Luxbet.com)
– Correct score 1-0 Arsenal ($8 at Bet365.com)
The Gunners are long overdue to notch a win in this fixture.
With Ozil and possibly Sanchez set to return, Arsenal have all the tools to end their derby drought against the Blues.
And even though Chelsea may regain the services of Hazard, the likely absence of Diego Costa – who has scored five goals in as many games since Hiddink’s return – will leave them with a huge hole to fill up top.
After years of false dawns, Arsenal need to make a statement if they are to be taken seriously as title contenders.
A win here would be just the ticket.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea top goalscorer bets
Olivier Giroud ($6 at William Hill)
People still doubt this guy, but anyone who saw his two-goal display at Liverpool will know he is the real deal. The Frenchman a complete centre-forward who can score all sorts of goals, so the Chelsea stoppers will have to be on top of their game to keep him at bay.
Theo Walcott ($7 at CrownBet)
This month marks the 10th anniversary of Walcott’s move to Arsenal. His manager and teammates have smothered him with praise this week, and a derby goal on Sunday seems like the perfect way to express one’s gratitude.
Willian ($12 at Bet365)
With Diego Costa tipped to sit out, the Blues’ Brazilian wideman is as good a bet as anyone to find the back of the net. He has shown some serious quality with the dead ball this season and is second in Chelsea’s overall scoring charts with eight goals in all competitions.
Eden Hazard ($9 at CrownBet)
It’s been a horror season for the reigning PFA Player of the Year, who is yet to trouble the scorers in Premier League 2015-16. He remains Chelsea’s biggest weapon nonetheless, especially with Costa sidelined, and will be the go-to guy if he returns this weekend as expected.
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