Gun­ners to the ’Bridge

Conte’s Chelsea on a roll host an Arse­nal side still to make its mark this sea­son

The New Age (Free State) - - SPORT - LONDON

ARSE­NAL’S clash with Chelsea a year ago marked the turn­ing point in a sea­son that fin­ished with the Premier League ti­tle head­ing to An­to­nio Conte’s side at Stam­ford Bridge.

De­spite Arsene Wenger’s team in­flict­ing a 3-0 de­feat on their ri­vals at The Emi­rates that day, Conte used the ex­pe­ri­ence to change his for­ma­tion and Chelsea went on a 13-match win­ning league run.

For Arse­nal, it was to be their only vic­tory all sea­son against any of the teams who fin­ished in the top four.

The north London club came fifth, miss­ing out on the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 years and thus go into Sun­day’s show­down at Stam­ford Bridge off the back of a Thurs­day night match against Cologne in the Europa League.

Chelsea, mean­while, will have had a four­day break fol­low­ing their Cham­pi­ons League maul­ing of Qarabag on Tues­day. Al­though the cir­cum­stances are dif­fer­ent from this time last year, when Arse­nal were in the Cham­pi­ons League and Chelsea were not even in Europe, it is busi­ness as usual for Wenger. “Wed­nes­day night or Thurs­day night is no dif­fer­ent for us, apart from the fact that it’s a dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tion, but when you play on Wed­nes­day-Satur­day it’s sim­i­lar to Thurs­day-Sun­day,” the French­man said this week. The pres­sure will be on Arse­nal to avoid a third suc­ces­sive league de­feat on the road hav­ing al­ready come un­stuck at Stoke City and Liver­pool, where they were thrashed 4-0. Chelsea, on the other hand, have once again learned from their mis­takes to put to­gether a three­match win­ning run fol­low­ing a shock open­ing-day home de­feat by Burn­ley. Af­ter their 6-0 vic­tory at home to woe­ful Az­eri side Qarabag on Tues­day, Chelsea goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois said they were rel­ish­ing the prospect of fac­ing the Gun­ners. “Some­times it is good to face a big team early. Last year it didn’t work out against LivArse­nal, er­pool and but this sea­son we have al­ready won at Tot­ten­ham. It is good to face Arse­nal now,” he said. “We are do­ing well. Af­ter that bad first half against Burn­ley, I think all our per­for­mances have been good. We have shown good spirit, good foot­ball and good wins most im­por­tantly of all.” – Reuters

PIC­TURE: EPA PIC­TURE: EPA

DAN­GER MAN: Chelsea for­ward Eden Haz­ard. FORCED TO STAY: Arse­nal for­ward Alexis Sanchez.

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