Who: Chelsea FC at Arsenal FC
What: English Premier League
Where: Holloway, London, England, UK
When: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel Forecast
Time: 12:45 p.m. GMT/ 7:45 a.m. ET/4:45 a.m. PT
TV: ESPN2 (USA), Sky Sports (UK)
Computer: ESPN3 Link
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio Channel 92
Referee: Martin Atkinson
2-Way Odds: Arsenal -½ +115; Chelsea +½ -135
3-Way Odds: Arsenal +115, Chelsea +240, Draw +210
Moneyline Odds: Arsenal PK, -200; Chelsea PK, +160
Total: Over 2½ -115, Under 2½ -105
Source: LVH SuperBook (Formerly the Las Vegas Hilton)
This one should be really fun.
In probably the most important match for Chelsea since May’s UEFA Champions League final thriller against Bayern Munich—not counting the Community Shield or the UEFA Super Cup letdowns—the Blues travel across Londontown to battle with Arsenal on Saturday in what promises to be an extremely entertaining match.
The two sides both lost their most popular stars over the summer with Chelsea’s Didier Drogba heading to Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League and the Gunners’ Robin van Persie going to Manchester United.
These two unbeaten teams have both played incredible defense in their first five matches with first-place Chelsea (4-1-0) and fifth-place Arsenal (2-3-0) both allowing just two goals with each scoring nine.
This London derby should be a low-scoring, close affair with few shots on target, much like the last meeting between the two clubs at Emirates Stadium on April 21 when the two deadlocked 0-0 in a match that saw any chances of Chelsea finishing in the top four in the English Premier League table virtually disappearing.
In last year’s first encounter between the two at Stamford Bridge, the Gunners topped the Blues 5-3 as van Persie tallied a hat trick in one of the highest-scoring games of the season in the Premiership.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger deserves a little bit of credit for keeping his club in the hunt these past couple of seasons after losing stars like Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fábregas and van Persie.
The Gunners do have some talented scorers on board in Lukas Podolski (2 goals), Gervinho (2), Santi Cazorla (1), Theo Walcott (1), Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud and head into this important match with the same goal differential (+7) as Chelsea.
In its last league game, Arsenal (12-4-3, 39 goals for, 17 against at home in 2011/12) became just the third club to earn a point from Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in 31 matches when Laurent Koscielny tallied a late equalizer to tie the game at 1-1.
One thing to watch for the Gunners is goalkeeper Vito Mannone, who should be starting again for the injured Wojciech Szczęsny who is still nursing an ankle injury.
Mannone has impressed manager Wenger with his play and may actually be earning enough respect to make a run at the starting position for the club.
European champions Chelsea are feeling pretty good right about now after consecutive clean sheets against Stoke City (1-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (6-0), whom they smoked at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the third round of the Capital One Cup.
Newbies César Azpilicueta and Marko Marin both saw their first action for the Blues against Wolves, and Oriol Romeu and Victor Moses notched their first goals for Chelsea while goalkeeper Ross Turnbull was solid in front of the the net, getting his first shutout as a starter.
It was also the first time for Azpilicueta, Marin and Moses starting after coming over from Marseille, Werder Bremen and Wigan Athletic respectively over Chelsea’s extremely active summer transfer buying binge.
The rout was the Blues' biggest win since they trounced Ipswich 7-0 in the FA Cup last January.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was able to rest some starters like goalkeeper Petr Čech and defender Ashley Cole against Wolves, and both should return to the starting XI for this clash of titans on Saturday while captain John Terry, who started against Wolverhampton, will also be ready.
Blues right-back Branislav Ivanović said of the match in a Daily Mail report, “This is the first actual big game for us this season. Our performances and quality—we know how it is. But we have to show everyone, and we have to show it every game.”
“This is the biggest challenge,” the 28-year-old Serb went on. “I think Arsenal will be a great challenge for us, and we have to really be ready for that.”
With midfielders Juan Mata—who was brilliant against both the Potters and Wolves—Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marin and Moses, Di Matteo now has an embarrassment of riches in the advanced midfield/winger/forward spot and it seems Ramires, who again started in a holding midfield spot on Tuesday, better fills a need defensively for the club in the back for now.
Expect both sides to be on their best behavior at the Emirates in this one and I wouldn’t be surprised if a mistake ends up being the big difference here.
And if there ever was a game that I could see ending in a 1-1 or 0-0 draw, this is the one.
Also worth noting, the opening line for the total at sportsbook.com was under 2½, -250 and now both that offshore establishment (under 2½, -117) and the LVH SuperBook (under 2½, -105) here in Sin City both have more respect for the over as the current (Wednesday) line reflects.
Whether or not it’s because of the paramount nature of the match, Arsenal likely having a backup goalkeeper in net, Chelsea’s six-goal outburst or some big wagers on the under at -250 or a combination of all of the above, who really knows.
For me, this one will be tight and low-scoring with the match's first goal—if there is one—being huge.
And if you’re a fan planning on watching this in North America, beware of the very, very early start time. Getting up at 4:45 a.m. (Pacific time), as I will be doing, to watch a football match is a hard thing both mentally and physically, but this is one I may just have to stay up all night for to watch and enjoy—then deal with a sleep deficit later in the day.
It should be that good.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1
BETS: Under 2½ -105, Draw +210
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