Arsenal

Di Matteo Pre Match Press Conference [video]

Arsenal will be without Mikel Arteta, who will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. Yossi Benayoun is ineligible to play against his parent club, but Laurent Koscielny is available after a ban and Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin return.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is out with a knee injury and boss Roberto di Matteo is set to rotate his side with Tuesday’s trip to Barcelona in mind.
Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres could come in.

Chelsea’s victory over Barcelona had a sweet and sour taste for Arsenal. If the Blues now actually go on to lift the Champions League, the Gunners will have to finish third to qualify for that competition.

This then becomes a must-win game. But Wednesday’s colossal performance against the Catalan giants must have drained Chelsea. With Drogba injured, Ivanovic banned and other rotational changes, Chelsea won’t be as strong as in midweek. Arsenal, though, will have Koscielny back from his ban and have had two extra two days to prepare for what has always been one of my favourite fixtures.

Memories stand out like headlamps cutting through the haze of history. All the big personalities have shone. Ian Wright and Thierry Henry loved scoring against Chelsea. But Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dennis Wise had their moments too.

Remember Wise’s 90th-minute equaliser at Highbury in the 3-3 epic in 1996-97? How about Roberto di Matteo’s goal as Chelsea overturned a League Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to reach Wembley the following year? Then there was their stunning 5-0 League Cup win at Arsenal in 1998-99. Di Matteo played in that one too. It was the Gunners’ worst home defeat since 1925.

I gasped when Kanu scored from an impossible angle along the deadball line in his 1999-2000 hat-trick at Stamford Bridge. I was there when Wayne Bridge’s Champions League quarter-final away winner in 2003-04 gave Chelsea the upper hand in London football.

I sensed Arsenal had regained the ascendancy with last season’s 3-1 home victory. Robin van Persie’s classy hat-trick at the Bridge in October made it two wins in a row. If they’re in that mood they’ll beat what must be an exhausted Chelsea side, two-thirds of the way through a run of 21 games in 68 days.

  • Arsenal have won nine of their last 11 Premier League games. Chelsea have won just one of their last seven away. But only the Manchester clubs have a better away defensive record.
  • This will be the 150th league meeting between the two clubs – Arsenal lead by 61 wins to 44. Chelsea have lost just four of their last 19 meetings in all competitions with Arsenal – but the Gunners have won the last two.
  • Monday’s defeat by Wigan ended a run of five consecutive home league victories for the Gunners.
  • Arsenal have lost two of their last four Premier League games.
  • Arsene Wenger’s side have won six Premier League matches after conceding the opening goal this season – no other club has won more than three.
  • Wojciech Szczesny is poised to make his 50th Premier League appearance in goal for Arsenal.
  • Chelsea have won two of their last five Premier League games.
  • Only the two Manchester clubs have conceded fewer goals away from home in the Premier League this season than Chelsea (18).
  • Chelsea are chasing their 400th win in Premier League football.

Ashley Cole is on 349 career league appearances.

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