Chelsea in derby test

Champs Blues host Ar­se­nal as both teams re­cover from wob­bles

CityPress - - Sport - – TEAMtalk Me­dia

Hav­ing bounced back from open­ing-day de­feat, reign­ing cham­pi­ons Chelsea face their next big test when Ar­se­nal visit Stam­ford Bridge to­day.

The Blues had a wob­ble right at the be­gin­ning of their ti­tle de­fence with a home loss to Burn­ley, but have re­gained their com­po­sure to reg­is­ter wins over Tot­ten­ham, Le­ices­ter City and Ever­ton.

They now sit third in the stand­ings, one point be­low the two Manch­ester giants. Their lat­est match, a 6-0 thrash­ing of Qarabag in the Cham­pi­ons League, was also the per­fect warm-up.

The Gun­ners seem to have got­ten over what­ever was af­flict­ing them at An­field three weeks ago, where Liverpool beat them 4-0 to put more doubt in man­ager Arsène Wenger. But a con­fi­dent 3-0 win over Bournemouth fol­lowed last week­end, while Ger­man side Cologne were also dis­patched in the Europa League on Thurs­day.

As good as those wins were, they will feel pretty mean­ing­less if the Gun­ners are over­whelmed at the Bridge.

“I hope to fin­ish the game with 11 play­ers,” Blues boss An­to­nio Conte joked ahead of the match, re­fer­ring to all the red cards that have ap­peared in re­cent episodes of this Lon­don derby.

“Then, dur­ing the game, the best will win. When you play against Ar­se­nal, it’s al­ways a mas­sive game. Any­thing can hap­pen.

“We have to fight and play against a ri­val. It’s im­por­tant in this case to con­tinue and show we are stronger than them.”

In team news, there could be a change in the Chelsea line-up to ac­com­mo­date the re­turn of Eden Haz­ard. If Cesc Fàbre­gas, rather than Tié­moué Bakayoko, plays along­side N’Golo Kanté in mid­field, then ei­ther Wil­lian or Pe­dro will have to make way for the Bel­gian.

One player who will def­i­nitely not be fea­tur­ing is new sign­ing from Le­ices­ter City Danny Drinkwa­ter, who is out with a calf in­jury.

For Ar­se­nal, Wenger said that he would “have to see” about Me­sut Özil and Aaron Ram­sey, but reck­ons “they should be al­right” to fea­ture.

Re­gard­ing Jack Wil­shere, who fea­tured against Cologne, Wenger said that “you will see that it will give him more con­fi­dence and you could see that he still needs com­pe­ti­tion”. Fran­cis Co­quelin and Santi Ca­zorla are still out with a ham­string in­jury and a plan­taris in­jury, re­spec­tively.

Else­where in Eng­land, Manch­ester United look to de­fend their lead at the top of the stand­ings against Ever­ton at Old Traf­ford.

United won their open­ing three matches be­fore Stoke City held them to a 2-2 draw last week­end. How­ever, a 3-0 win over FC Basel in the Cham­pi­ons League fol­lowed.

The Tof­fees have been strug­gling of late, with three de­feats in a row, which in­cluded eight goals con­ceded and none scored.

In team news, Paul Pogba is set to miss out with a ham­string in­jury, while Luke Shaw, Mar­cos Rojo and Zla­tan Ibrahi­mović are also un­avail­able. For Ever­ton, Ross Barkley and James McCarthy are ma­jor doubts.

PHOTO: KIERAN GALVIN / NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IM­AGES

BAT­TLE ROYALE Ar­se­nal’s Theo Wal­cott and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in a pre­vi­ous match. The teams meet this af­ter­noon

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