Who: Arsenal FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Week 17
Where: Emirates Stadium, North London, England, United Kingdom
When: Monday, December 23, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast North London
Time: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network,NBC Sports Live Extra (US); Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 1 Ireland, BBC One, Arsenal Player (UK)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC - Channel 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Mike Dean
3-Way Odds: Arsenal +130, Chelsea +210, Draw +240
Total: Over 2½ -140, Under 2½ +110
Decimal Odds: Arsenal 2.30, Chelsea 3.10, Draw 3.40
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.71, Under 2½ 2.10
Fractional Odds: Arsenal 13/10, Chelsea 21/10, Draw 12/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 5/7, Under 2½ 11/10
Alternate Odds: Arsenal Pick -140, Chelsea Pick +115
Over 3½ +185, Under 3½ -250
First Half: Arsenal Pick -140, Chelsea Pick +110; Total: 1o -130
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Arsenal +120, Chelsea +180, Draw +220
Total: Over 2½ -125, Over 2½ +105
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
It may be the last match on the schedule in the English Premier League, but this London derby between third-placed Chelsea and first-placed Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Christmas Eve Eve is certainly the marquee game this weekend.
And although much has been, and will continue to be made, about the fact that the Blues (33 points) can overtake the Gunners (35 points) on top of the table with a win on Monday, the logical reality is that second-placed Liverpool (33 points) hosts Cardiff City on Saturday and will likely have already earned its own three points and a very significant edge (+7) in goal differential (+21 to +14) compared to the Blues heading into play.
So can we cool it with the silly talk about "who’s in first place" in the Premier League table just a little bit?
Whatever happens will only have temporary implications and we all know this is going to be an entertaining dogfight from now until next spring. Let’s try to enjoy the ride a little bit, brother.
So yeah, if Liverpool loses and Chelsea wins, then the boys from West London and their fans can chirp for a week or so that it is indeed their team who is in first place. But until then...have some eggnog or something.
In the end, the best time to be in first place will actually be on the morning of May 12, 2014.
Anyway, both clubs will head into this game in a foul mood with hosts Arsenal (11-2-3) maybe being even a little bit saltier than the Europa League champs after having the unpleasant sequence of events of being blanked by Napoli in UEFA Champions League play (2-0); throttled by Manchester City in league play (6-3); then drawing defending European champions Bayern Munich in Champions League round of 16 play. Fun times, eh?
Chelsea (10-3-3) comes in off of a soul-sucking defeat to Sunderland in extra time midweek in the quarterfinals of the Capital One Cup at a frigid and rainy and half-empty Stadium of Light in yet another game where Jose Mourinho’s side failed to hold on to a late lead.
At home, the Gunners are 6-1-1 (16-6 goals) and can stay on top of the heap for yet another week with a win, but getting that victory here and holding on to the top spot in England’s top flight won’t come easy as the Special One has never lost to Arsene Wenger at the helm of Chelsea (5-4-0) dating all the way back to 2004.
But the Blues haven’t exactly been good on the road so far (3-2-3, 13-11 goals) so anything can happen and anything will.
Personnel-wise, Arsenal will be without the services of midfielder Jack Wilshere—serving the first game of a two-game suspension—Abou Diaby (knee), Ryo Miyaichi (hamstring) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), and there have been mixed reports on Laurent Koscielny’s participation after the defender suffered a deep cut to his knee in last weekend’s sobering loss at the Etihad Stadium.
Forward Lukas Podolski will be available after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered three months ago.
The Gunners have scored first in their last 10 matches in North London and do hold the lifetime edge over Chelsea (71-52-57) in the series, but Arsenal has allowed as many goals in its last two EPL games (7) as it had in the previous 13.
Working against Arsenal is the fact that Chelsea has won the last three meetings, including a Capital One Cup meeting in October (2-0) and both of last season’s league fixtures by 2-1 scores. The Blues have won six of 10 against the Gunners and have more wins against Arsenal at the Emirates than any other team so this one should be tight, tight, tight.
With Mourinho shuffling lineups more than a Las Vegas poker dealer shuffles cards and choppier than a helicopter, expect something different—again—and here it seems that starting Fernando Torres at striker and Juan Mata—who has scored in his last four starts against the Gunners—in the attacking midfield seem like fairly strong possibilities.
One guy who reportedly won’t be in Chelsea’s starting XI is Ashley Cole who, claims the Daily Telegraph, will be "on the bench or at home" according to Mourinho after the 31-year-old Englishman was photographed at Arsenal’s Christmas party.
So expect Cesar Azpilicueta to again likely get some time and the start at the left-back position.
Michael Essien (suspension), Marco van Ginkel (knee) and Ryan Bertrand are all also out for this contest.
Handicapping this game is a pretty tough proposition and the best idea is probably just to sit back and enjoy it, but if interested, there are a couple of angles that may have you smiling like the Grinch when all is said and done, Cindy Lou Who.
Chelsea is 6-1-3 (20-13 goals) over the last 10 league meetings, scored first in eight of those meetings and worth a look as the underdog at the healthy price (+210), but knowing it will be close, a 1-1 or 2-2 final could emerge so the draw (+220) is the way to go for me here.
Looking at the total, this would be my preferred play of the two as the Blues are 10-6 to the over and four of the last five league meetings have gone over. Chelsea has also scored at least two goals in its last six Premier League matches and Petr Cech has clean sheets now about as often as Oscar the Grouch...and he lives in a filthy garbage can, sister.
And with Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott among others, the Gunners can explode for goals with the best of them on the continent and will glad to be playing on their home soil after all they’ve been through as of late.
One thing is a great bet: That almost everyone and his mother worldwide—where the holiday applies—will be watching this clash of titans to start their Christmas weeks. Ho ho ho.
POSSIBLE STARTING XIs
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Walcott, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Girod
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Mikel, Ramires, Willian, Hazard, Mata, Torres
PREDICTION: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2
BETS: Arsenal Chelsea Over 2½ -155, Draw +240
>Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11