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Chelsea Vs. Arsenal: Preview

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Right then. Chelsea have one of the early games this weekend, coming three days after playing 120 minutes against Everton in the Carling Cup, the bulk of that with ten men. Oh, and before that we lost 1-0 at Loftus Road to Queens Park Rangers, which mercifully did not come in a 120 minute game* because we had two men sent off in the first half. In other words, we've been playing too much high-stress football recently, so it's fortunate that Saturday's match is against Arsenal (12:45 PM GMT, Stamfod Bridge) rather than one of the Manchesters.

*Actually, maybe we'd have won it given an additional half hour.

The Gunners, of course, have had a pretty poor start to the season, and although they've now won seven of their last eight matches, they've been pretty quiet about the whole thing, as though they can't quite believe that they weren't losing (except against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane). Obviously, losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in one month and then suffering a slew of major injuries at important positions will make any team look bad, but they' probably aren't as terrible as they looked at the beginning of the year, so don't underestimate them.

However, they're also clearly not in the class of the top three - a rather large chasm has opened up between Chelsea, City and United and the rest of the league, and considering the match is at Stamford Bridge you'd have to think that the Blues are heavily favoured. We're better at almost every position on the pitch (centre forward with Fernando Torres vs. Robin van Persie is the only one that really sticks out as clearly in Arsenal's favour, although you could argue Alex Song vs. John Obi Mikel too), and so apart from the name, there's not much to worry about where the Gunners are concerned.

With Ramires back in action after his knee injury (thank goodness) and three players returning from domestic suspension, Chelsea's lineup is not hard to guess:

Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Alex, Jose Bosingwa; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Ramires; Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge.

The bench is going to look a little odd with Ross Turnbull and Didier Drogba both suspended - Hilario is 'ill', so Rhys Taylor's been called up to the first team along with Jamal Blackman to serve as please-don't-let-them-play backup goalkeepers, and I'd expect Romelu Lukaku to be on the bench as well following a strong display in the Carling Cup.

We know how to beat Arsenal - put pressure on the defence and eventually they'll do something stupid. The left zone in going to be critically important - Juan Mata and Ashley Cole against Theo Walcott (just kidding, he won't defend) and... an emergency right back, possibly Laurent Koscielny, is a ridiculously enticing area for Chelsea to hit, and that will probably be where we find the most joy on the night afternoon.

Is there anything to worry about? Well, Gervinho against Jose Bosingwa won't necessarily be very much fun, and Robin van Persie's in ridiculously good form. However, if we manage not to get red carded (I know, I know, not bloody likely), we should have too much for our guests. Let's go with 2-1 to Chelsea.

Links: Tactical Scouting Report (CareFree Chronicles) | Five Questions With We Ain't Got No History (The Short Fuse).

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