Two teams each looking for their third victories of the week meet in Sunday’s early kick-off at Stamford Bridge. Hosts Chelsea have put the opening day debacle against Burnley firmly in the rear-view mirror with four straight wins in all competitions, while visitors Arsenal have (at least temporarily) righted their floundering ship with solid back-to-back wins over struggling sides AFC Bournemouth and 1.FC Köln.
For Chelsea, it’s essentially a must-win, as much for reasons of rivalry and psychology as for keeping pace with the two Manchester sides who are firing on all cylinders these days and sitting unbeaten in the top two spots of the league. Sure, it’s only matchday five and Manchester City won ten in a row before fading in the winter last season, but there is a feeling that both Guardiola and Mourinho have come to grips with the task facing them and will not let up this season. We probably also shouldn’t count on another 13-game winning streak upon which to build an unassailable title charge.
Consistent points is thus the name of the game, and that includes not dropping points at home (especially having already done so against Burnley, most unexpectedly). The squad seems confident enough and are saying the right things, but you never know until you play the game.
Date / Time: Sunday, September 17, 13:30 BST; 8:30am EDT; 6:00pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Michael Oliver — Oliver was in charge for that fateful 3-0 loss to Arsenal last season at the Emirates, which changed everything (for the better). Since then, we’ve won four in a row under the 32-year-old, with most matches involving very few yellow cards and no red cards for Chelsea.
Forecast: Sunny, turning cloudy, rainy.
On TV: Sky Sports (UK); CNBC, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select 1 / HD1; elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo En Vivo Extra (USA); Hotstar (India)
Chelsea team news: Everyone except Danny Drinkwater is available. The new signing had gotten over his initial injury from the summer only to suffer a calf strain last weekend. He’s expected out for a month and won’t be available for selection until after the October international break.
Eden Hazard may not be completely 100 per cent yet, so there is a small chance he’s only on the bench. Otherwise, it should be the strongest first-choice lineup from Conte.
Apparently the Chelsea head coach is having a bit of a sore throat and not even his usually doses of special Italian throat lozenges are doing the trick. One excellent remedy that I know of involves three points against the Arsenal.
Projected lineup (3-4-3):
Courtois | Rüdiger, David Luiz, Azpilicueta (c) | Alonso, Kanté, Bakayoko, Moses | Hazard, Morata, Pedro
Arsenal team news: Wenger rotated almost his entire team for the Thursday night game against 1.FC Köln in the Europa League, but he still might have to make do without Mesut Özil, who apparently wasn’t fit enough to participate in Saturday’s final training session. Aaron Ramsey should be available however after facing similar concerns.
It’s been six years since Arsenal beat AVB’s Chelsea at the Bridge and the Blues have lost just once in the eleven Premier League meetings since — and that one loss, as alluded to above, was the turning point that changed everything last season. Unfortunately, the season itself ended on a sour note, with the 2-1 loss to the Gunners in the FA Cup final, which still stings a bit.
Previously: It was either going to be Eden Hazard’s goal from last season or the 6-0 from 2014, in Wenger’s 1000th game at Arsenal manager. Since somebody posted the full MotD highlights from the latter on Reddit, let’s go with that. Three players from that game, David Luiz, César Azpilicueta, and Eden Hazard should all start this one, with a fourth, Gary Cahill at least on the bench (and Petr Čech, too, but sadly for the wrong team).