What: English Premier League
Who: Arsenal (2nd; 32 points) vs Chelsea (4th; 31 points)
When: Monday 27th December, 2010, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England

Title Aspiration Blows

Arsenal’s quest back towards the title they lost over six years ago has taken a step back recently, as the Gunners lost the chance to prize away the table’s lead, succumbing to Manchester United more than ten days ago. Now, the London giants have to face another stiff test as they welcome damaged city rivals Chelsea in what is one of the Premier League’s most important clashes.

The holidays have always been related to Arsenal’s demise during previous seasons. Arsène Wenger’s men would enter the festive period in sky-high form, before dropping points somewhere between December and February. One reason behind this is usually Wenger’s reluctance to splash the cash in the January transfer window, a stance the “Professor” doesn’t seem like abandoning this season either, urging his fans not to expect sudden signings in the following month, saying: "It’s highly unlikely you find just the player you need in January. It’s not about spending money; it’s about finding just the right player to strengthen a squad that is already very strong.", commented the Frenchman.

The End of a Bad Run

Having had their clash with Manchester United postponed last week, the 2008 Champions League finalists will be hoping to get back to winning ways, after enduring their worst spell in more than a decade. With Chelsea three points behind leaders United, Carlo Ancelotti knows full-well that a win against neighbours Arsenal would surely be the way to jump-start their campaign again.

The war of words has already begun between the two clubs, with Ancelotti attempting to “terrorise” Arsenal with their bogey man Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has stolen the spotlight nearly every time the two teams have met, and the former AC Milan coach will be hoping that his striker is amongst the thick of it when his side takes to the pitch at the Emirates: "I think they [Arsenal] are a little bit afraid of the performance of Drogba, because he’s done very well against them. If Drogba plays at his best, we’ll have more opportunity to win."


Recent form

Arsenal 2-1 Fulham (04/12; Premier League)
Arsenal 3-1 Partizan Belgrade (08/12; Champions League)
Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal (13/12; Premier League)


Chelsea 1-1 Everton (04/12; Premier League)
Marseille 1-0 Chelsea (08/12; Champions League)
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Chelsea (12/12; Premier League)

Key absences

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Kieran Gibbs; Thomas Vermaelen

Chelsea: Yuri Zhirkov; Alex; Yossi Benayoun

Players to watch

Arsenal – Cesc Fabregas: Much will rest on the shoulders of the Arsenal captain following his return from injury. The 2010 World Cup winner had a few nagging problems in the previous weeks, but Fabregas is now expected to slot in right in the middle of the Gunners midfield. Fabregas was thrown in against United in the second half, but could not stop the loss of all three points. Here, any Arsenal win will surely centre on the Spanish playmaker playing a big role from the off.

Chelsea – Frank Lampard: Another crucial midfielder making his starting eleven return is Frank Lampard. The Englishman was expected to make his bow against Manchester United last week, but circumstances dictated a change of plans. Expected to feature from the start, Lampard’s driving forward runs can go a long way towards opening up Arsenal’s defence, while his influence over his team-mates cannot be overlooked.

Match prediction

Wounded and bleeding, both teams go into the match with much to prove, and on current form, it may be the small details which decide this fixture. Arsenal’s luck might just be a little bit better at the moment, but the Pensioners will surely want to end their bad run as quickly as possible with a win themselves. With both sides as keen not to lose as they are to win, expect a final 1-1 scoreline.