It has taken just three days in 2018 for the famous rivalry between Arsenal and Chelsea to return and there isn’t expected to be any love lost for both sides.
Chelsea are currently third in the Premier League with a huge 17-point gap between them and top of the table, Manchester City. However, a win over Arsenal would see them leapfrog Manchester United into second, closing the gap to 14 points in the process. The Gunners aren’t even in the European places at the moment as they sit sixth, with six points separating them from fourth-placed Liverpool.
With only David Luiz out of contention for the starting eleven for the derby game, Antonio Conte will be hoping to deploy his tried and trusted 3-4-3.
The attacking efficiency of Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard (who was rested against Stoke) and either Willian or Pedro will be important if the Blues are to come away from the Emirates with all three points; each of the players will be hoping to exploit the clear defensive weaknesses shown by the Arsenal backline this season. The two full-backs will also be looking to hurt the Gunners with their relentless work rates up and down both channels.
Conte decided to rest several of his key players for the 5-0 demolition of Stoke in their last match and this could pay dividends on Wednesday. One of Willian or Pedro will be expected to drop to the bench in place of the returning Hazard, which can be seen as slightly unfair after both had great performances in the win over the Potters.
Tiemoue Bakayoko or Cesc Fabregas might be preferred to Danny Drinkwater after the former Leicester midfielder scored his first goal in a Chelsea shirt last time out. Bakayoko might be chosen for his physical presence in a midfield battle with Granit Xhaka alongside N’Golo Kante, who will definitely start.
Barcelona target Andreas Christensen might make a return to the back three after he could only make the bench against Stoke, he has impressed since being included in the side and could start in North London.
Predicted Starting XI
Despite the title being out of reach for Chelsea, a win is valuable in this clash with Arsenal as it would take them into second. It won’t be easy away from home but they should take advantage of Arsene Wenger’s injury-stricken side and come away with a win.
The Blues were beaten 3-0 in this fixture last term and they can’t afford a repeat of that in this one. With an injury table consisting of Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and, possibly, Mesut Ozil, the champions need to make sure they close the gap on Man City to 14 points with victory over Arsenal. They should be able to win on Wednesday evening in the first London derby of 2018 but must guard against any potential complacency.