Chelsea have found Arsenal to be troublesome opponents over the last year or so but have a strong recent home record against their London rivals that will boost confidence ahead of their encounter at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (13:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
The two teams have met on four occasions since Antonio Conte took over at Chelsea at the start of last season. In the league, a 3-0 win for Arsenal at the Emirates was equalised by Chelsea’s 3-1 win in West London. But Arsenal emerged victorious in the FA Cup final at Wembley and then won out on penalties in this season’s Community Shield.
Chelsea have, though, won each of the last five fixtures between the teams at Stamford Bridge with an aggregate score of 15-2. They come into Sunday’s match with an extra couple of days rest behind them after getting their midweek European fixture out of the way on Tuesday.
One of the main questions ahead of the new campaign was how Chelsea would handle the extra workload of European football. Without it, they won the Premier League last season with a very concentrated squad, in which just 13 players saw more than 600 minutes of action. That same consistency of selection will not be possible with regular midweek fixtures.
Conte’s side passed their first test by thrashing the Azerbaijani champions Qarabag 6-0 in the first match of their Champions League group on Tuesday. Conte was able to rotate, leaving Alvaro Morata and David Luiz on the bench and ensuring that none of Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Pedro and Tiemoue Bakayoko saw more than an hour of action. A goal for new signing Davide Zappacosta on his first start for the club was the icing on the cake.
Tougher tests will yet come but after adding Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater to the squad on transfer deadline day, Chelsea do now at least look more or less equipped to competently juggle their European and domestic commitments.
Conte’s side lost 2-3 at home to Burnley on the opening day of the league season but have since recorded consecutive victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Leicester City. They are yet to really sparkle in attack, despite three goals for new signing Morata, but they have been solid defensively and will hope to improve from here.
There is at least a basis for optimism at Stamford Bridge, something that would be hard to find among many in the Arsenal support. The Gunners have won both of their home league matches to date but defeats away to Stoke City and Liverpool, heavily in the latter case, have done little to provide confidence that they will be able to get back into the top four this season.
There are a lot of question marks hanging over the Gunners right now. Will they persevere with the three-man defensive system they brought in to success towards the back end of last season after mixed results this time around? Will Alexis Sanchez reintegrate well after his potential deadline-day move to Manchester City broke down? Will supporter unrest over the direction of the club turn toxic?
What is clear is that Arsene Wenger’s side will have to accustom themselves to a different rhythm now that the European competitions are up and running. After 19 consecutive seasons of Champions League football, it is now the Thursday nights of the Europa League that greet them.
They got off to a solid start by coming back from a goal behind to secure a 3-1 win at home to Koln. The kickoff was delayed for an hour due to the accumulation of supporters around the stadium but once things did get underway, it was the German side who had the better of things. Arsenal only got going after the break, when goals from Sead Kolasinac, Sanchez and Hector Bellerin saw them to victory.
But Arsenal are unlikely to find opponents as willing to let them back into the game this weekend. Chelsea have already beaten two of last season’s top seven this season, have an excellent home record against the Gunners and with a couple of extra days of rest and preparation time behind them can be expected to emerge victorious on Sunday.
Our preview’s Chelsea v Arsenal Betting Tips
Here are this preview’s betting tips, with the pick of the odds from the top online betting websites:
- Bet on Chelsea to win @ 4/5 with Bet365.
- Back Alvaro Morata to score at any time @ evens with Betfred.
Compare Chelsea v Arsenal Betting Odds from Bookies