Chelsea in derby test
Champs Blues host Arsenal as both teams recover from wobbles
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.
BATTLE ROYALE Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in a previous match. The teams meet this afternoon