Seeking to avenge their defeat to the Gunners earlier in the Premier League season, Chelsea welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge for Wednesday’s Premier League London derby.
Thomas Tuchel’s hosts are all but assured of a top-four place following a 2-1 victory over champions-elect Manchester City last time out, while Arsenal kept their fleeting European hopes alive by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1.
The Blues are third in the table before Wednesday’s game – although they could drop to fourth before kickoff – while the mid-table Gunners are languishing in ninth before the short trip across the capital.
Chelsea boss Tuchel has affirmed that Mateo Kovacic has an outside chance of returning to action for the visit of Arsenal, but the Croatia international would surely only feature as a substitute if he is passed fit.
The hosts’ only other injury is the rejuvenated Andreas Christensen, with Tuchel bemoaning the defender’s unfortunate thigh injury as he prepares to take his place on the sidelines for this game.
As he has done week in week out this season, Tuchel’s policy of rotation is set to strike again in midweek, with Kurt Zouma expected to take Christensen’s place as Thiago Silva enjoys an extended break.
Billy Gilmour held his own for 90 minutes against Man City but could make way for the returning Jorginho here, while Ben Chilwell could provide fresh legs on the left despite Alonso’s winner at the Etihad Stadium.
Kai Havertz is a candidate to lead the line over Timo Werner, with former Arsenal man Olivier Giroud unlikely to earn any game time against his old employers.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are expected to cope without former Chelsea man David Luiz as he nurses a hamstring issue, while Pablo Mari (ankle) and Granit Xhaka (groin) are not expected back just yet either.
Arteta confirmed that Smith Rowe was withdrawn against West Brom due to hamstring pain, and while it remains to be seen how serious the issue is, Martin Odegaard will almost certainly replace him at Stamford Bridge.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the hero of last season’s FA Cup final against Chelsea – should earn a recall to the fold having fully recovered from malaria, and Alexandre Lacazette could feature up front as Gabriel Martinelli makes way.
Thomas Partey was also named among the substitutes in midweek so could come in to replace Dani Ceballos in the middle of the park, while Kieran Tierney should be fit enough to start at left-back, allowing Bukayo Saka the chance to rest.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Ziyech, Mount; Havertz
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Elneny; Pepe, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Head To Head
Wednesday’s game represents the 203rd meeting between Chelsea and Arsenal in all competitions, with the Gunners boasting 79 wins compared to the Blues’ 65.
A 3-1 success over a Chelsea team led by Frank Lampard saw the Gunners stretch their unbeaten run against the Blues across all competitions to three games, but they have not won at Stamford Bridge since the 2011-12 season, when Robin Van Persie bagged a hat-trick.
Having overseen a win at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the season, 39-year-old Arteta could become the youngest manager to win both top-flight games in a season against Chelsea since then-Sheffield Wednesday boss Trevor Francis did so at the age of 37 in 1992.
Predictions: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
While Arsenal enjoyed success against Lampard’s Chelsea, they are yet to face the resilient and free-flowing unit marshalled by Tuchel, whose side are the clear favourites for this derby.
Arteta will continue to be scrutinised following every underwhelming result from hereon in, but the Spaniard’s side may simply be overwhelmed by Chelsea’s strength in depth and dogged defence, so we can only back the hosts to comfortably get the job done.