Chelsea – Arsenal Preview

   vs.

Barclays Premier League – Round 31
Stamford Bridge, London  23 March 2008 
Kickoff @ 4pm GMT

OUR SQUAD: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb, van Persie, Adebayor, Lehmann, Walcott, Song, J Hoyte, Senderos, Gilberto, Denilson, Bendtner.

MISSING: Rosicky, Diaby, Eduardo

FORM: Chelsea are unbeaten since their loss at The Emirates back on December 16th.  Their last defeat prior to that was the defeat at Old Trafford back in September.  They have won four of their last 6 home matches and are unbeaten in 77 consecutive matches at the Bridge dating back to Arsenal’s victory there in February 2004.  Chelsea are 9-5-0 at home this year while Arsenal are 7-6-1 away from the Emirates.  Arsenal have drawn four in a row in the league and five of their last six matches overall.  Arsenal have only lost once in their last 37 league matches dating back to April 9th of last year.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Arsenal are 4-4-2 against Chelsea in the league in the last five years.   Arsene Wenger’s career record against Chelsea in all competitions is 16-11-6.

STATS: Emmanuel Adebayor has fallen to third in the scoring charts with 19 after having hit a bit of a dry spell while Ronaldo, 24, and Torres, 20, have continued firing.  Gael Clichy is one of only 9 field players to have played in all of their team’s league fixtures.  Cesc Fabregas remains second in the league in assists with 13 behind Ashley Young with 15.  He is four ahead of Chelsea’s leader, Solomon Kalou with 9.  Fabregas is also tied for third in the leauge with 8 yellow cards this season.  The Actim Index currently places Adebayor in second behind Ronaldo by just one point.  Cesc Fabregas sits in fourth place and Gael Clichy sits in 9th.  The Actim Index takes into account a number of in-depth statistics and come up with an overall figure representing their performance for the season.  They also rank Adebayor as the league’s top striker, Fabregas as the second best midfielder, Clichy as the second best defender, and Almunia as the fifth best keeper.

INJURIES: Arsene Wenger talked about Tomas Rosicky’s nagging injury which has kept him out since January:  “He is not making much progress.  It looks like the tendon of his hamstring is healing slowly.  He has been out now for seven weeks. It is difficult to say to you that he will play next week. In fact it is impossible to say when he will return. He has not practised and I don’t know what to say really. It is a frustration for me and him as well.  He’s a very genuine guy who wants to play. If you tell him to come in tomorrow morning at 4am and leave at midnight so it will be better, he will do it. He has an absolutely genuine attitude and is 100 per cent committed but he’s just not ready.”  For Chelsea, Petr Cech is facing a late fitness test.

TEAM NEWS: Arsene on the team’s recent slump: “I believe that we had a little slow down after Birmingham, but I feel now in training that we’re over that.  This is a good opportunity for us to show it.”  He was also understandably upset as reports surfaced this week that Alexander Hleb had met with his agent in Milan the night before the crucial return leg of the Champions League knockout round.  Rumours abounded that they were actually discussing a deal with InterMilan which the Italian club has since denied.  “I was concerned and I didn’t like that it happened.  If the agent came to the team hotel then he should have asked me for permission to see the players.  You cannot just see the players like that.  All the rest we will keep secret.  But Italy is well known for having good ice cream!”

COMMENTARY:  I believe we will see a very tight game as most Big 4 affairs are.  Neither team can afford to lose and that usually doesn’t contribute to a wide open attacking game.  However, the result from Old Trafford will already be in and, if it’s favorable. may push either or both teams to really go after the victory.  While Chelsea have continued their unbeaten run at home this season with nine wins in fourteen matches at the Bridge, they have had some narrow escapes there to some very questionable sides.  Chelsea’s defense has also looked somewhat suspect at times, Terry in particular on Wednesday against Spurs.  One thing is for sure, come Sunday night, we will have a much better picture of what will need to be done to secure our first Premier League title since the Unbeaten season of 2003-04.

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