The second game of a radically new system is hardly the ideal time for a big derby, but that’s the hand Chelsea have been dealt by the schedule makers. At least we’re at home, and our opponents, who have a new manager for the first time in two decades, are in much the same fix. And while we have the cushion of three points from last weekend’s opener, they’re smarting from a 2-0 loss to Manchester City.
It should be an interesting game. It may even be chaotic. Neither team has yet a firm grasp on what they’re doing on the pitch.
While we can only speculate about what expectations Roman Abramovich has of Maurizio Sarri in his first season, Emery has reportedly already been told that for him, there’s no pressure. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. A little pressure can be highly motivating, after all.
We do know what Stamford Bridge will be expecting though. In eight matches against Arsenal, Antonio Conte had one win, three draws and four losses. Nobody wants that again.
Time for normal service to be resumed.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 18th, 2018, 17:30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10:00pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Martin Atkinson — Chelsea have a good record with Atkinson in the center (no team has won more of his games than the Blues), but we lost all three league matches he refereed last season: 3-0 defeat to Newcastle, 2-1 to Manchester United and the torpid 1-0 at Manchester City. We did win the semifinal of the FA Cup, while drawing 0-0 with the Gunners in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal.
Forecast: Nice weather. Partly cloudy. Temperature should be around 23°C (72°F), winds 12 km/h (7 mph). The chance of rain showers is 2%.
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India)
Chelsea team news: Cesc Fabregas and Callum Hudson-Odoi were two of the more notable absentees from the matchday squad last weekend. While there’s no news on Hudson-Odoi, Fabregas has been revealed to be carrying a near-knee (?) injury — not his knee, “near his knee,” said Sarri in his press conference. Further worries of the match fitness kind extend to Mateo Kovačić and Eden Hazard, one or both of whom might still just be on the bench.
Arsenal have not won at the Bridge since the 2011-12 season (the 5-3 AVB special) and have scored just 2 goals in the six Premier League visits since. On the other hand, Chelsea haven’t beaten Arsenal in six straight in all competitions (including last month’s friendly).
Arsenal team news: Drama at left-back for the Gunners. Sead Kolasinac is out with a long-term knee injury and emergency substitute Ainsley Maitland-Niles limped off against City with what turned out to be a minor fracture in his leg. Nacho Monreal is back in training this week, possibly just in time; Stephan Lichtsteiner is the emergency-emergency backup should Monreal not be fit enough. Danny Wellbeck may be back to full fitness after a late start on pre-season, Laurent Koscielny is out long term with an Achilles. Petr Cech will start in goal again, which will make Arsenal’s efforts to play out of the back interesting.
View from the enemy: The Short Fuse
Last time: Conte’s inexplicably poor record against Arsene Wenger limits our choices, so we’re going to settle for February 2017’s 3-1 win at the Bridge, with Alonso, Hazard and Fabregas scoring.