To make this league match as titanic as it could possibly be, both Chelsea and Arsenal had to do their part in the lead-up. Chelsea, although narrowly, did so by beating Manchester City, 1-0 to grab all three points, and Arsenal obliged by dropping points via a 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
So now ... a February title showdown truly deserving of its own trailer.
Arsenal got the better of Chelsea in way back when, in the first league game of the season — albeit narrowly thanks to an offside goal — as Chelsea were debuting a new three-back formation and welcoming key players back from the summer Olympics.
No excuses now however. Both teams have had patches of bad form, and both will be missing key players, but both are still more than talented enough to put on a show.
We will be hoping to replicate the dominance of our overpowering FA Cup Final performance. The Gunners will be hoping to hit the reset button to stop their skid, and rebuild their lead at the top of the table.
If all three points go to Chelsea, the Blues will leap to the top, and still with a game in hand. A draw wouldn’t be disastrous either, but this is a home game. At Kingsmeadow. A London Derby. Against Arsenal.
It doesn’t get more perfectly poised than this.
Date / Time: Friday, February 11, 2022, 19.45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston Upon Thames, UK
Forecast: Light rain; 39°F/4°C
How to watch: Sky Sports (UK), NBCsports.com (US), Sportsnet Now Plus (Canada), The FA Player (most everywhere else)
Chelsea team news: We continue to be without Maren Mjelde, Melanie Leupolz and Magdalena Eriksson. The good news is that Ji So-yun has returned from the Asian Cup (though only after losing to China in the Final by a goal in the 93rd minute, which is decidedly not good news). Lauren James has also continued her streak of making appearances off the bench.
A slightly bigger (and much needed) bonus has been the resurgence of Guro Reiten, who has three goals and three assists in her last three games across all competitions. She had shown flashes of stellar form before, netting five goals and seven assists in fifteen starts during her debut season, but with Fran Kirby not quite firing, Hayes has turned to Reiten, and has delivered.
Arsenal team news: Arsenal have had a rough start to 2022, and a big part of that has been injuries to key players, particularly defenders. Manager Jonas Eidevall has already noted that center back Lotte Wubben-Moy is unlikely to feature, though he has “high hopes” for fellow defender Leah Williamson and USWNT winger Tobin Heath being able to play. The January signing of Brazil international defender Rafaelle may help them cope as well.
What’s likely even more worrying for them is that star fullback Katie McCabe will be forced to miss the match, having picked up a red by way of a second yellow in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
That said, Arsenal may have stumbled upon a potentially devastating linkup when their 79th minute equalizer in said game, which came from a stunning Viv Miedema pass from her own half to the feet of new signing Stina Blackstenius. Attempting to defend and control Chelsea without at least two key players on the backline could prove futile, so they might as well go for broke by including both Miedema and Blackstenius in the starting XI for the first time.
Previously: Chelsea dismantled Arsenal in the 20200-21 FA Cup Final (played December ‘21), and it was glorious.