Chelsea’s win in O Dragao on Wednesday was only the second by an English team since 1974, and means that players can rested for the visit of APOEL the week after next. The club is now set up nicely to cope with a testing time in domestic competitions, and this weekend’s trip to north London is the second of four tricky away fixtures.
Midweek brings a visit to Blackburn in the quarter final of the League Cup, then it is off to Eastlands to test the mettle of moneybags Manchester City.
But Sunday brings the chance to put a London rival 11 points behind in the league.
It is London’s oldest top-flight derby, third versus first, and the Premier League’s highest-scoring attack up against its toughest defence.
That’s not to say that Chelsea’s attack is not potent. In fact, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have netted 12 of Chelsea’s 33 league goals between them (36%). Arsenal’s 36 strikes were from 14 different sources – including own goals. Nine of those (25%) have come from strikers.
Chelsea have scored in every game since the 0-0 draw at Barcelona’s Camp Nou in April, 27 matches ago. Find the net on Sunday and it will break the previous club record run of a Blues goal in every game, set between August and December 1985.
Their humbling defeat last weekend at Sunderland brought Arsenal’s first blank of the season and ended a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
In a media conference after that defeat the Arsene Wenger revealed a hitherto concealed grasp of Anglo-Saxon, using a word for which lesser mortals (Didier Drogba) have been banned.
His unprofessorial reaction came in response to suggestions that his players will aim to be fit for next summer’s World Cup. No doubt there was even more effing and blinding after England hopeful Kieran Gibbs was crocked again against Standard, adding to a lengthy injury list. Robin van Persie, Gael Clichy, Johan Djourou, Abou Diaby and Nicklas Bendtner were already ailing.
With the pressure building after four barren seasons the Frenchman might relish the chance to restore pride with a good performance against the league leaders.
However, he would not wish to field a weakened side against a Chelsea team that have scored two or more goals in 14 of our most recent 17 league games. And especially not in November.
It’s often said that a football club’s ambitions come down with the Christmas decorations. All too frequently at Arsenal, the dream ends when most households are still struggling to find the festive lights in the loft.
Last season Arsenal had been defeated twice in the league going into November and proceeded to lose three times during the month itself. 2007 was a comparatively good year, but in November 2006 they lost all three away league matches, at West Ham, Bolton and Fulham.
And in 2004, Chelsea went top in early November by overhauling Arsenal, who fell to one defeat and two draws on the road during that month.
A lot was made of last weekend, without the top-scoring Dutchman and Bendtner, being the first blank Arsenal have fired all season, but their problems lie at the other end. Arsenal have conceded 15, the same as Stoke and Fulham, only four fewer than Pompey, and almost twice Chelsea’s total.
In contrast to last season, Chelsea have a 100% record in the two matches against teams from last season’s top four without conceding.
|Big Four matches|
Chelsea also have maximum points so far from games against our London rivals without letting in a goal. Arsenal dropped points in a 2-2 draw at West Ham.
|Premier London League|
Our out-of-form League Cup opponents Blackburn host Stoke, whose only previous away win came at Spurs. Next weekend’s opponents City are at home to a revived Hull team, while Manchester United will look to close the gap on Chelsea at Pompey. By coincidence, newly-installed boss Avram Grant’s first game in charge at Chelsea was also against the Red Devils.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Blackburn v Stoke 3pm
Fulham v Bolton 3pm
Man City v Hull 3pm
Portsmouth v Man Utd 3pm
West Ham v Burnley 3pm
Wigan v Sunderland 3pm
Aston Villa v Tottenham 5.30pm – ESPN
Wolverhampton v Birmingham 12.00pm
Everton v Liverpool 1.30pm – Sky Sports
Arsenal v Chelsea 4pm – Sky Sports
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Defoe (Tottenham) 11
Torres (Liverpool) 10
Bent (Sunderland) 9
Drogba (Chelsea) 9
Saha (Everton) 8
Rooney (Man Utd) 7
Van Persie (Arsenal) 7
|Barclays Premier League table|
Arsenal’s game in hand, Bolton (home) and Manchester City’s, Everton (home) have still to be arranged.
The FA Cup third round draw is live on ITV1 at around 3.50pm on Sunday after the Kettering v Leeds second round match.