Two of the Premier League’s title contenders meet when Chelsea host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (12:45 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Chelsea come into the match on the back of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Galatasaray on Tuesday that saw them progress to the last eight of the Champions League. They head the Premier League table with 66 points from 20 wins, six draws and four defeats and are vying for title favouritism in the bookies’ Premier League betting.
The Blues fell to their first league defeat since early December last weekend, going down 1-0 away to Aston Villa. That slip means that both Arsenal and Liverpool are now just four points behind them, each with a game in hand, while Manchester City can move into top spot if they take six or more points from the three matches they have in hand.
Jose Mourinho tried to deflect criticism from his team’s performance by focusing on the referee in his post-match interview, but will surely have been a little concerned after again watching his side fail to break down a defensively-minded opponent. Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian sparkled intermittently, but Fernando Torres (pictured) was poor and Chelsea lacked a cutting edge.
The success of Chelsea’s season has been built upon a strong defensive base. They have the best defensive record in the division and have conceded just eight times in their last 19 matches in all competitions. Their attack is certainly not as prolific as those of Liverpool and Manchester City, but elite defensive performance has kept them in the title race.
Mourinho will definitely be without the injured Marco Van Ginkel (knee) and suspended duo Ramires and Willian for the visit of the Gunners, while Ashley Cole (knee) is also highly unlikely to take part. Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic return to the squad after being cup-tied for the midweek win over Galatasaray.
Arsenal come into Saturday’s match on the back of a 1-0 victory over local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in last weekend’s North London derby. They are third in the Premier League table, with 62 points from 19 wins, five draws and five defeats.
It has been a hectic recent period for the Gunners, with Champions League and FA Cup engagements clashing with their league program and leading to patchy form that had seen them win just two of the six league matches leading in to last weekend’s derby. With Manchester City (home) and Everton (away) still to come, their run-in is little easier.
It is interesting, considering Arsenal’s reputation as an attractive attacking side, that their goals for and against profile is actually more similar to that of Chelsea than the league’s two top-scoring teams, Liverpool and Manchester City. Their goals per match rate has decreased as the season has gone on and they have come to increasingly rely on their defence.
Arsene Wenger will point to extenuating circumstances, including an injury list that has seen key players like Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott sidelined for large stretches of the campaign, but the decision not to invest in further attacking options in January looks likely to prove costly to their title ambitions.
Wenger will definitely be without Abou Diaby (knee), Jack Wilshere (foot), Ozil (hamstring) and Walcott (knee) for the trip to Stamford Bridge, while Ramsey (thigh) is also unlikely to be fit enough to take part. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to start despite limping off towards the end of the derby victory over Spurs with a calf complaint.
Chelsea v Arsenal Betting Tips
These two sides drew 0-0 when they met at the Emirates earlier this season, with Chelsea going a good job of shutting down Arsenal’s offence. The Blues were 2-1 winners in last season’s equivalent fixture, but Arsenal have won twice in the last five meetings between the sides at Stamford Bridge. Wenger is winless in 10 previous encounters with Mourinho.
Chelsea may have lost last weekend, but the comfortable manner in which they overcome Galatasaray on Tuesday suggests that result was little more than an aberration in what has otherwise been an excellent run of form over the last few months. Since the turn of the year, only Liverpool have accumulated points at a higher rate than the Blues.
With Arsenal lacking some of their best attacking players and Chelsea very strong in defence, the stage looks set for another clean sheet for the Blues. Arsenal are also good defensively, but while Chelsea have struggled in front of goal at times this season we believe they are capable of edging to victory.
- Bet on Chelsea to win @ best odds of 10/11 with Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes or Paddy Power.
- Back under 2.5 goals @ best odds of evens with BetVictor.