Chelsea face Arsenal for the first time in the Didier Drogba-less era, and that's a scary thought: the Ivorian scored thirteen goals against Arsenal in his time in England, essentially ensuring Chelsea were more or less guaranteed to come away with three points whenever he was in the side (we only ever lost to Arsenal with Didier once). Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted they wouldn't be sad to see the back of him:
'I don't know if Chelsea miss him, but we don't miss him. He did a lot of damage against us,'
Luckily, Didier Drogba's last action for the club was to ensure the arrivals of some young and incredibly exciting footballers, whom Roberto Di Matteo will be looking to in order to secure three points against our London rivals. It's too early to ascertain what kind of role this game has in the overall bearing of the league, with both sides finishing some way off the top two last season, it seems exaggerated to call this a true title clash. It does however promise to be an exciting match, with the two sides capable of exhilarating and highly technical football. It is also a clash between the two stingiest sides in the division, and a boring stalemate could well be on the cards as well, just as it was in this fixture last year.
Date/Time: Saturday, 29th September, 12:45 (BST), 7:45 AM (EDT), 5:15 PM (IST)
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
TV Information: Sky Sports 2 (UK), ESPN2 (USA), ESPN (India)
Online: ESPN3 (USA)
As two geographically linked neighbours, Chelsea v Arsenal is already a fairly testy derby, but the added spice of competitiveness ensures that this is always a good game. This is Chelsea's first chance to avenge last year's aberration at the Bridge under AVB, as the away clash came at a time when we had significantly priorities on our hands. This game marks Arsene Wenger's 16th anniversary at the Gunners, and I'd hate for us to give him any more reason to celebrate.
The major injury concern for Arsenal was the fitness of captain Thomas Vermelaen, who has been cleared to play having recovered from an injury that had sidelined him for last week's clash against Manchester City. Wojciech Szczęsny has not recovered in time for this game, nor has English midfielder Jack Wilshere. Emmanuel Frimbong was scheduled to return from his knee injury, but even if fit, his involvement seems unlikely. You'll find more in-depth analysis of what to Expect of Arsenal and the issues surrouding their lineup and the tactical factors concerning this clash in my scouting report from earlier today.
What else would Di Matteo be allowed to discuss at his pre-match press conference? John Terry was the hot topic, with the manager declaring that he had trained this morning and is eligible for selection for the match. Di Matteo called Terry "a senior pro" and a player "who had plenty of experience" to deal with the pressures of the big game. He also confirmed Terry would continue to be club captain.
Di Matteo also ruled striker Daniel Sturridge out as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury (the Marko Marin curse continuing to strike), while Frank Lampard is fully recovered from an ankle injury I didn't even know about until it was confirmed he had recovered from it. Robbie's actually got a bit of a line-up dilemma on his hands as he looks to find the best combination to beat a speedy Arsenal side.
Despite recent experimentation with Ramires in the double pivot, I'd expect to see the Brazilian restored to a right sided berth and Lampard reinstated to the midfield. Against a team like Stoke which essentially plays without a midfield, having the Brazilian masquerading as a central player isn't a bad thing, but a team like Arsenal have the talent to take advantage of his poor distribution.
The other big question hinges on the formation on the attacking trident: Oscar's played well enough to earn a starting spot, but in a team containing Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, an assist against Wolves just isn't good enough. Sorry, Oscar.
Read up on our opponents at SB Nation's wonderful Arsenal blog The Short Fuse, but play nice and don't troll.