Friday, April 20, 2012

Arsenal vs Chelsea preview

If the last meeting between these two sides in the league was anything to go by, we should be expecting a cracker this weekend at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have recently pulled together a good string of results, despite their defeats to QPR and Wigan, whereas Chelsea will be buoyed by their 1-0 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, despite Champions League betting offices still favoring a Barcelona victory in the 2nd leg.

Arsene Wenger's men are sitting in 3rd in the league and are likely to keep ahold of that position to guarantee their spot in the qualifying stages of next season's Champions League. The Gunners have been dealt a blow with Mikel Arteta being ruled out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury, to add an ever-growing list of injured midfielders including Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere, who has not played a single minute of Arsenal's current campaign. Yossi Benayoun will be unavailable for this clash due to contractual conditions which were agreed when he made the loan move from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates stadium.

This leaves Arsenal with Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky to patrol the centre of the park. Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelaen and Gibbs should be the back line. Robin Van Persie should be supported by Theo Walcott and Chamberlain (possibly Gervinho). Meanwhile, we can expect one of two things with Chelsea. Either a side that is completely tired out from 90 minutes of defending vs Barcelona and keeping an eye on the return leg at the Nou Camp, or a side that's gained a huge amount of confidence from that win. I don't know which Chelsea is going to turn up, but either way, they need the 3 points. With Newcastle and Tottenham above them in the league, Chelsea need to desperately step up a few gears and guarantee their place in next season's Champions League through their league position.

I'm expecting Chelsea's main men to be rested for the Barcelona game. They have a good enough squad with players like Bosingwa, Kalou, Malouda, Essien, Sturridge and, of course, Torres all capable of doing a decent job, especially considering that none of them started the game against Barcelona, so they will still be fresh. The defence is where Chelsea might be taking a risk by playing the exact same central pairing (and Ashley Cole) as on Wednesday. Ivanovic will definitely not play as he's suspended and David Luiz will miss the game through injury.

It promises to be quite a battle for 3rd and 4th spot in the Premier League this season, with Arsenal, Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea all flexing their muscles to guarantee Champions League football next season. With the way things are going, it's too tough to call.

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