Arsenal-Chelsea: Crucial, But Not the Title Decider
Do games get any bigger than this? Arsenal and Chelsea are all set to face off at the Emirates stadium on Sunday, this coming on the same weekend as the top of the table clash in Spain, El Clasico at the Camp Nou.
Most people would be busy deeming this as the potential title decider, just as was done before the Chelsea-Manchester United game.
But I'm afraid it isn't, once again. With every team having at least 24 games to play, it's just silly to believe that this one match will settle things. Everyone knows this, good teams take each game as it comes.
Having said that, let us turn our attention to this game.
First, the main talking points.
Both teams have won mid-week in the Champions League, and look well prepared for each other. Arsenal, however, lost last weekend versus Sunderland, which shows that they are still in the habit of dropping points against weaker opposition.
Chelsea, on the other hand, secured yet another comfortable win, this time hitting Wolves for four.
Based on current form, it's fair to say that it'll be a tight affair. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United will have a close eye on this match, hoping for Chelsea to drop some points, and will look for maximum points against Portsmouth to put the pressure on the Blues.
Another interesting talking point is the fitness status of the players.
For the Gunners, Robin Van Persie will undergo ankle surgery next week and is expected to be sidelined for up to five months, which is a massive blow to Arsenal's title aspirations.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (knee) is close to a comeback but Abou Diaby (calf), Gael Clichy (back) and Johan Djourou (knee) are still out. William Gallas has an eye problem, and is rated as 50/50 for the clash.
Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs are also set to miss out.
Chelsea, in comparison, don't have much of an injury problem.
Frank Lampard has recovered from a thigh injury sustained on England duty but despite flying to Serbia for placenta treatment, Chelsea has confirmed the midfielder will take part.
Jose Bosingwa (knee) remains sidelined, but Michael Essien has shaken off a knee injury to be included in the squad.
Now, to the battles that I think will decide this crucial Premier League fixture...
Cesc Fabregas vs. Michael Essien
From Arsenal's attacking, and Chelsea's defensive point of view, this is the super important. What can I say? Fabregas in devastating form, and Essien an integral part of the Chelsea diamond midfield.
It will be interesting to see how Essien handles Fabregas, and the rest of the Arsenal midfield try to stop him from venturing forward.
Didier Drogba vs. Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas
Didier Drogba tends to save his best for games against Arsenal. And if that is true, then Arsenal are going to have a serious problem.
Vermaelen and Gallas have formed a decent partnership at the back, however, the defense has still been leaky, and they now have an uphill task to keep out an in form Blues attack. Vermaelen is good at set-pieces, and Arsenal will need him at his best.
The Wide Positions
With Sagna, Arshavin, Nasri, and a returning Theo Walcott, Arsenal can be very difficult to deal with on the flanks. However, they'll be without Clichy and Gibbs, so the left back position is a problem, and Chelsea can capitalise.
Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea is likely more of a threat through the centre. They will rely on Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole to burst forward to ensure Chelsea doesn't limit themselves to just central areas.
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
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