We head to the Emirates tomorrow for what is a huge tie for Chelsea FC. Currently in 6th place domestically, this weekend could will play a huge part in determining whether or not Chelsea still have a chance to qualify through their domestic play or not. A win would put us just 4 points behind Arsenal with a game in hand as well as temporarily jumping both Newcastle and Tottenham into 4th. It would also keep the pressure on those clubs to get a result, and in all likelihood any dropped points by those two would result in us remaining ahead of those clubs on the tiebreaker.
A loss would be devastating. If that were to occur, we'd drop 10 points behind third, and potentially 5 behind 4th. With only four games left to play in the Premier League schedule that would likely be the end of our domestic Champions League chase. All our focus at that point would be on winning the FA Cup and Champions League. A draw would leave us in similar bad shape, but it would at least leave us some hope of a Tottenham or Newcastle slip that would allow us to catch them. It would still be an awfully poor result though.
Time/Date: 12:45 BST (7:45 AM EST), Saturday 4/21/12
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London.
TV Information: ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN 3 (USA).
David Luiz and Didier Drogba are both out injured for this one, and Branislav Ivanovic will be sitting out after sucker punching a hobbit. No word on Oriol Romeu yet, but I'd assume he misses out as well. Arsenal have some injuries of their own, as Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta are both out for the season. Yossi Benayoun will be ineligible for this one due to being a loanee.
Roberto Di Matteo has generally preferred the 4-2-3-1 domestically, and I don't see any reason to believe this one will be any exception. We've had a busy schedule lately, and Di Matteo seems to like rotating his squad as much as possible. I'd have to think the Champions League is the priority at this point, although I doubt we'll see much of a dropoff in quality with tomorrow's selection. With that in mind, here's my best guess at what we'll see tomorrow:
I'd imagine that many of the other regulars will be rounding out the bench, but we may get to see Romelu Lukaku take a place in the 18 for this one. It also wouldn't surprise me at all to see either Ramires or Salomon Kalou starting in place of Malouda, but I've got a gut feeling we'll try to save those two for a very tough match coming up in Spain.
Arsenal are always a tough team to play due to their possession style of play, so having them sandwiched between the two Barcelona games may well be a bit of a blessing in disguise. How often are Arsenal the least dangerous passing team you get to face in a three game stretch? Add in the Arteta injury and recent terrible form of Aaron Ramsey and it looks even better from that aspect. It's hard to predict what we'll see for a result tomorrow, but I won't be happy with anything other than a win. Let's Go Blues!