If tonight's game is half as exciting as the Manchester City and Bristol City clash hen we're in for a treat. In truth London Derbies between these two old foes usually provide fireworks... throw in the fact that it's a cup semi-final and you can safely expect a sparkler.
So light the touchpaper and step back. We preview the merits of both teams and suggest a couple of bets that could see the bank manager dancing with glee!
CHELSEA 1 V 2 ARSENAL
WHEN TWO TRIBES GO TO WAR
Conte and Wenger must be sick of the sight of each other, and we’re not talking about the aesthetic properties of either. The two sides have played six times since the start of last season with Arsenal claiming the silverware on two of those occasions: The FA Cup in May, when they won 2-1, adding the Community Shield in the season opener, winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Both sides enjoyed comfortable home wins, and Chelsea took the honours in Beijing, winning a lacklustre pre-season workout 3-0 that neither took too seriously. The last time they met, just last week, the two punched eachother to a standstill. 0-0 at half-time, the Emirates exploded into action in the second half, with four goals, including an injury time equaliser for the Gunners. That all counts for nothing, however, as both sides know they are just three games away from winning silverware. So, let the games begin!
Chelsea will relish playing the first leg at Stamford Bridge, where they have been strong this season, losing none of their last 11 games at home. They picked their third win on the bounce at the weekend, beating Leicester away and they sit third in the league, trailing United by just a point. That defensive nous will be put to the test tonight and it’ll be interesting to see how The Blues, who have not won any of the last four meetings between the two, react.
Arsenal arrive in disarray. The FA Cup winners were dumped out in the third round for the very first time under Arsene Wenger, losing 4-2 to Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest. True, it was a changed side from the one that last featured in the Premier league, but as Wenger himself pointed out, it was packed with nine ‘internationals’…! That result leaves them with just one win in five, something approaching a crisis for Arsenal. Indeed, somethings amiss and the constant speculation and unrest surrounding the futures of Sanchez and Ozil is clearly affecting the camp. The time to put that right is now, starting with Chelsea in the carabao Cup, easier said than done, though!
That frigid ‘northern air’ was obviously to blame. Since arriving in the smog of London Ross Barkley has stated that he ‘feels fine now’ and the recent acquisition from Everton could feature at some point. Hazard picked up a knock in training, but it isn’t thought to be serious. For Arsenal, if the lack of confidence wasn’t enough they’ll also have to make do without Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Mustafi, Granit Zhaka, and Oliver Giroud. The Frenchman, who has a knack of coming off the bench and scoring goals in big games, could be a particulary painful miss tonight.
Poss. Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard
Poss Arsenal XI (3-4-2-1): Ospina; Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny; Bellerin, Wilshere, Coquelin, Maitland-Niles; Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette
What We Sayin’?
Truth be told, the stats don’t bode well for Arsenal in this one. They’ve won just one of their last NINE visits to West London (D1 L7), whilst Chelsea have gone through to the final in four of their last five League Cup semi-finals. The Blues were unlucky not to claim all three points last week at the Emirates and Arsenal are in turmoil… a convincing home win for the favourites, then?
Well, a straw poll across the office suggests Chelsea will win this 2-1 (7/1). I’m not as convinced. Arsenal are at their most dangerous when wounded and in Lacazette. Ozil, and Sanchez they have a trio equipped to terrorise any defence in the world. A repeat of the 2-2 played out last week pays 12/1, but rather, we’re going with:
- BTTS | 4/6
- BTTS, +2.5 goals | 21/20
- Hazard 1st GS (he takes pens!) | 3/1
- HT/FT - Chelsea/Arsenal | 33/1
- Hazard 1st GS, Arsenal win 1-2 | 80/1
- Our scorecast (1-2) | 10/1
Whoever you decide to back, don't forget to follow us on Twitter (@stanjames) as we mark your card with all the latest updates: it's just like being pitchside yourself!
Please do bet responsibly, and the best of luck!
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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