Saturday’s all-London Premier League showdown pits Chelsea and Arsenal against each other at Stamford Bridge.
Despite starting this round trapped in the bottom half of the standings, the Blues found a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel on the cusp of October’s international break.
Back-to-back multiple-goal margin victories over Burnley and Fulham had offered new manager Mauricio Pochettino some respite during the pause, reigniting the hosts’ bid to mount a genuine European challenge this term.
Chelsea’s thumping 4-1 win at Turf Moor last time out was a sign of recovery as they had found the net four times for the first time in 71 matches across all competitions.
Another noteworthy takeaway from their landslide triumph in Lancashire is that they fought back from a deficit to win their first away Premier League game after conceding the opener since October 2022.
Their form resurgence now faces a mammoth task as high-flying Arsenal travel across the capital seeking another confirmation of their notable rise under Mikel Arteta.
Gabriel Martinelli’s last-gasp strike inspired the Gunners to a morale-boosting 1-0 home victory over reigning champions Manchester City in the previous round of games, keeping their unbeaten league start intact.
Alongside cross-city rivals Tottenham Hotspur, they’re the only Premier League side yet to lose this season (W6, D2), suggesting another campaign-long title battle is on the cards.
Having defeated his mentor Pep Guardiola for the first time in a league encounter, Arteta’s confidence ahead of this daunting-looking trip is sky high.
Testifying to Chelsea’s return to form, their six-goal tally across their last two Premier League outings has eclipsed their dismal haul of five goals from their first six this season.
Pochettino will expect nothing less from his side after overseeing back-to-back league defeats at the Bridge, which puts the Blues at risk of losing three straight home league games for the first time since 1993.
Avoiding that feat with a first home league triumph over Arsenal since August 2018 would see Chelsea piece together three successive top-flight wins for the first time since October 2022.
However, after being on the receiving end in five of their last five Premier League meetings with the Gunners (W1), including three on the trot at the Bridge, Chelsea cannot take anything for granted.
Defensive resilience has been critical to Arsenal’s scintillating league start. They’ve kept a division-high four clean sheets and conceded a joint-low six goals across the opening eight rounds.
Their solidity at the back has been off the charts, especially on the road, where they’ve won all three top-flight matches thus far by an aggregate score of 6-0.
The last time they started a new league season with three consecutive shutouts on hostile turf was in 1995/96 when the fourth game ominously saw them lose 1-0 to Chelsea.
Arsenal won’t pay much attention to the history books after racking up an outstanding 15-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League London derbies (W11, D4).
Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Carney Chukwuemeka and Trevoh Chalobah are all out for Chelsea, but Reece James could make the matchday squad.
James has been on the sidelines with a hamstring problem since August, as has Benoit Badiashile, who recently returned to training.
There’s a slight chance the Blues captain could start on the bench this weekend, with Malo Gusto expected to take his place on the right-back after serving a suspension.
Bukayo Saka’s absence with a hamstring injury headlines Arsenal’s list of concerns, with the star winger pulling out of the England squad after missing out on the Gunners’ win over Man City.
William Saliba’s withdrawal from the France national team due to a ‘chronic’ toe issue is another massive setback for the visitors, leaving Arteta with a difficult choice to make.
Jakub Kiwior or Takehiro Tomiyasu will take the Frenchman’s place on Saturday, with the latter boasting better chances of making the starting XI.
Chelsea potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Robert Sanchez; Marc Cucurella, Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, Malo Gusto; Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, Enzo Fernandez; Raheem Sterling, Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): David Daya; Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu; Kai Havertz, Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard; Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah.
We Say: Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal
Neither manager would like to find themselves on the losing side, leading us to believe a closely-fought midfield battle could be in store with clear-cut chances at a premium.
However, since both teams have enough firepower to hurt each other, we expect them to get on the scoresheet but share the spoils at the full-time whistle.
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