The biggest clash of the Matchday 34 concludes the weekend’s Premier League action as second place Arsenal play host to proverbial champions Chelsea.
Victory for Chelsea would give them the opportunity to wrap up the title in April which would be won if they matched three points at the Emirates with three points at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal are the league’s in-form side with eight consecutive victories but Arsène Wenger is still winless in his career versus José Mourinho. Given the history of the two managers, no bookmakers – and you can compare across the whole spectrum – are giving Arsenal the edge in this game. With Chelsea’s title almost in the bag, expect a draw.
Per Mertesacker is rated at 50-50 and the Gunners boss has already confirmed Gabriel Paulista will start alongside Laurent Koscielny if the 2014 World Cup winner is unavailable.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to be sidelined, and whilst Mikel Arteta is back in full training, he is not ready to make his return just yet. Otherwise, Wenger has the majority of his squad available to him.
Diego Costa is missing with a hamstring injury but Loïc Rémy could be back having missed the two previous weekend. Didier Drogba is a slight doubt with an ankle injury but we’d expect the Ivorian to play if Rémy isn’t good to start.
Aside from concerns up front, Mourinho has the rest of his squad available.
David Ospina has won 11 of his 12 Premier League games but may find it unlucky number 13 against the toughest opponents he’s faced yet in England. Gabriel Paulista looks set to make only his fourth Premier League start. Mathieu Debuchy started last weekend’s FA Cup win but looked shattered in the second half so we’re leaning towards Héctor Bellerín to start this one. Nacho Monreal is the better defensively of the two left-backs. Aaron Ramsey on the right means Arsenal only have width down that side when the right-back bombs on as the Welsh midfielder drifts in field all the time. This will be a good test to see how good Mesut Özil really is after good performances versus lesser opponents recently. Olivier Giroud has nine goals in his last 11 Premier League appearances.
There’s no reason for the back four that shut out Manchester United to be replaced this weekend. Kurt Zouma could well start again in front of the back four as he continues to pick up experience. He did look shattered with more than quarter of an hour to play though last weekend. With Mourinho set to play two defence minded midfielders, former Gunner Cesc Fàbregas plays the number 10 role. Oscar started out on the right last weekend and we’re guessing Loïc Rémy starts up front.
Eden Hazard vs Héctor Bellerín
The favourite for this season’s PFA Player of the Year award versus a young Spaniard who has broke into the Arsenal first-team this season. Héctor Bellerín has looked excellent in games this season, but other times has been beaten by opposition wingers and given daft fouls away. Eden Hazard certainly has the ability to get past the right-backon his way to either creating chances for himself or teammates, or winning free kicks in dangerous positions.
Francis Coquelin vs Cesc Fàbregas
Cesc Fàbregas was chasing shadows for a lot of last weekend’s victory over Manchester United as the opposition dominated possession. Expecting Chelsea to play a similar game this weekend, it will be important that Francis Coquelin doesn’t allow the former Gunner to create chances when he does see the ball. He’s done a great job in breaking up the opposition play this season but this weekend could be his biggest test to date. Will need to support the defence when Eden Hazard cuts inside too.
Alexis Sánchez vs Branislav Ivanović
Contrary to many reports, we think Branislav Ivanović had a good game versus Manchester United last weekend. The Serbian was tested on numerous occasions by Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, blocking many a cross and ultimately, few opportunities were created by Louis van Gaal’s side. Alexis Sánchez is tireless and will be looking to get beyond the Chelsea right-back who has been caught out of possession on a fair few occasions this season, as well as being vulnerable to the odd trick and simply being beat one-on-one by good dribblers. Had a number of quiet games since the turn of the year, let’s see if the real Alexis Sánchez shows up this weekend.
0 – Arsène Wenger has never beaten José Mourinho in 12 competitive meetings (5D, 7L).
8 – Didier Drogba has scored eight goals in 11 Premier League matches versus Arsenal.
33 – Arsenal have picked up the most points in 2015 (33).