Feb 4, 2017 at 12.30pm UK at ​Stamford Bridge
Attendance: 41,490
Alonso (13'), Hazard (53'), Fabregas (85')
Matic (70')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Giroud (91')
Mustafi (23')

Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League London derby between leaders Chelsea and title hopefuls Arsenal.

All eyes will be on Stamford Bridge on Saturday as the 24th Premier League gameweek gets underway with a mouth-watering London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal.

The hosts will be looking to take one step closer to a second title in the space of three years, while visitors Arsenal are in desperate need of a win to keep their ailing title hopes alive.


Chelsea

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates after his side's Premier League victory over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on January 14, 2017© SilverHub

With news breaking on Thursday that Frank Lampard has announced his retirement from the game, Chelsea will be desperate to do arguably their greatest ever player justice when they welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge.

With a club-record 211 goals in 648 appearances, it may be some time before we see a player match the achievements of Lampard in West London, but a number of the current crop are certainly on the right track having surged to the top of the Premier League table this season.

Perversely, Chelsea owe a certain degree of thanks to Arsenal for their success this season. The Gunners' 3-0 win in the reverse fixture between these two sides in September was a chastening enough defeat to convince Antonio Conte to switch his system, since when the Blues have been nigh-on unstoppable.

A run of 13 consecutive league wins followed that defeat, and in all Chelsea have picked up 46 points from the 51 available since - a sensational run of form that has seen them build a nine-point lead over the chasing pack.

Another victory on Saturday may be enough to eliminate Arsenal from the equation, but it remains to be seen whether Conte continues with the slightly more reserved tactics he showed at Anfield on Tuesday.

Unsurprisingly when visiting the league's highest scorers, Chelsea were not as attacking as they have often been during their impressive run of form, yet they still managed to come away from Liverpool with a 1-1 draw and would have won the game but for Diego Costa's penalty miss.

Rather than proving to be two points dropped, the result actually extended Chelsea's lead at the top of the table courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both failing to win too, and if the chasing pack continue to miss such opportunities to close the gap then the title is all but Chelsea's already.

In all likelihood, though, Chelsea will be hunting all three points as eagerly as usual at Stamford Bridge, where they have won 10 consecutive matches in all competitions and 13 of 14 all season, scoring 41 goals and conceding just nine in the process.

Unsurprisingly, then, the Blues boast the best home record in the Premier League, in addition to the most goals scored at home, with the only blotch on their copybook coming back in September when Liverpool visited.

That Liverpool defeat was followed by the loss to Arsenal which helped transform Chelsea's season and, having shown improvement by drawing with the Reds on Tuesday, they will hope to banish the memories of the Emirates to add further weight to their increasingly convincing title credentials.

Recent form: WWLWWD
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWD


Arsenal

Arsene Wenger watches on during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Arsenal on December 18, 2016© SilverHub

A little over four months ago Arsenal fans were beginning to develop real belief that they could mount a genuine title challenge this season, while Chelsea were being written off by almost everyone.

The Gunners' victory over Conte's side at the Emirates was the seventh match in what would become a 19-game unbeaten streak that helped them overcome defeat on the opening day of the season and push themselves amongst the main contenders at the top of the table.

Right now, though, Arsenal fans would be forgiven for feeling an all-too familiar sense of deja-vu. A seven-match unbeaten streak which included six wins had seen Arsene Wenger's side move up to second in the Premier League table, and the manager himself had declared his current crop among the best he had had at the club.

There were even signs of the most questioned Arsenal attribute - that of character in the face of adversity - becoming evident amongst the players, with the Gunners coming from three goals down in the final 20 minutes to rescue a draw against Bournemouth and overcoming a similarly tepid display to progress in the FA Cup four days later.

All of that optimism was blown away inside the opening 15 minutes at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, though, with visitors Watford racing into a two-goal lead on their way to their first ever Premier League victory over the Gunners.

With the rest of the top four also dropping points, the shock defeat was not as damaging as it could have been, but there is no doubt that it was also a huge missed opportunity and Arsenal now travel to Stamford Bridge knowing that it is almost make-or-break for their title hopes.

Defeat would leave Wenger's side 12 points adrift of the league leaders - surely too big a gap to make up considering Chelsea's form - while even a draw would leave them with a lot to do in the final 14 games of the season.

It is worth keeping things in perspective, though. While the Watford defeat resulted in a predictable deluge of boos from the Arsenal fans, they are level on points with second-placed Tottenham and still better off than Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in the race for a Champions League place.

The Gunners have also only lost two of their last 21 away games in all competitions and have scored nine without reply in their most recent two.

However, Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for Wenger in recent years and, with the Frenchman set to sit amongst the Chelsea fans as he serves the third game of a four-match touchline ban, it would take something of a surprise result for him to enjoy his trip to West London.

Recent form: WWDWWL
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWWL


Team News

Aaron Ramsey takes a seat during the Champions League game between Arsenal and PSG on November 23, 2016© SilverHub

To add to Arsenal's misery from the Watford defeat, Aaron Ramsey was forced off after just 20 minutes with a calf injury that is expected to keep him out of this weekend's match.

The Welshman's expected absence creates something of a crisis in the Arsenal midfield, with Granit Xhaka still suspended, Mohamed Elneny at the Africa Cup of Nations and Santi Cazorla joining Ramsey in the treatment room.

Francis Coquelin is the only senior central midfielder available to Wenger, who has hinted that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be brought in to plug the gap.

Oxlade-Chamberlain himself is struggling with a knee injury from the Watford game, though, and should he fail to recover in time then it could be down to 19-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make his full Premier League debut in the match.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have minor concerns over the fitness of Eden Hazard and David Luiz, both of whom have reportedly been playing through the pain barrier in recent weeks.

However, Conte is not expected to leave either out for such a big game and the most likely change to the hosts' starting XI could see Pedro return in place of Willian.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud


Head To Head

Arsenal may have recorded their biggest win over Chelsea since April 1997 in the reverse fixture, but it is the Blues who have dominated this one in recent years. Prior to the September meeting, Chelsea were unbeaten in their last nine league games against the Gunners, winning six and drawing three.

Arsenal are looking to do the double over Chelsea for the first time since the 2003-04 season, incidentally the last time they won the Premier League title, while no Chelsea boss has lost his first two games against the Gunners since Glenn Hoddle in 1993-94 - a record Conte will be keen to avoid.

Chelsea conceded more goals in the first half of the reverse meeting than they had in their previous nine matches with Arsenal, including clean sheets in their six league clashes prior to that defeat at the Emirates.

Wenger has lost on his last four visits to Stamford Bridge, where Arsenal have not won since a 5-3 triumph in 2011 and not even scored since 2013.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

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.


Who will win Saturday's clash between Chelsea and Arsenal?

Chelsea
Draw
Arsenal
Chelsea
60.1%
Draw
14.6%
Arsenal
25.3%
A pensive Arsene Wenger during the Premier League game between Everton and Arsenal on December 13, 2016
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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CChelsea38303585335293
2Tottenham HotspurSpurs38268486266086
3Manchester CityMan City38239680394178
4Liverpool382210678423676
5Arsenal38236977443375
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd381815554292569
7Everton3817101162441861
8Southampton381210164148-746
9Bournemouth381210165567-1246
10West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38129174351-845
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham38129174764-1745
12Leicester CityLeicester38128184863-1544
13Stoke CityStoke381111164156-1544
14Crystal Palace38125215063-1341
15Swansea CitySwansea38125214570-2541
16Burnley38117203955-1640
17Watford38117204068-2840
RHull City3897223780-4334
RMiddlesbrough38513202753-2628
RSunderland3866262969-4024