Chelsea (+290) at Arsenal (+110), Draw (+250)
League-leading Arsenal will host the continually disappointing Chelsea tomorrow at the Emirates (11:00 AM Eastern) in the EPL’s 23rd fixture.
Fans are used to seeing both of these well-financed clubs near the top of the table, fighting for either the EPL title or a Champions League berth. But Chelsea’s season has been an unmitigated disaster. After taking last year’s EPL crown, the Blues currently sit 14th in the standings, just four points out of the relegation zone.
The team has made various moves in an effort to reverse its fortunes, including sacking manager Jose Mourinho and replacing him with Guss Hiddink; the Dutch coach has gotten better results than “Mou” in his first six games at the helm (2-4-0), but it hasn’t been good enough to vault Chelsea back to the upper echelons of the league.
Hiddink will be hoping for the return of playmaker Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been dealing with a groin injury and could be available for this weekend’s game.
“There were no injuries in [the West Brom] game,” Hiddink explained to the BBC. “The only one not available yet is Eden Hazard, although he is on the pitch working and I hope in the upcoming week he can enjoy full training sessions and then we can decide whether he can join us for the Arsenal game.”
Arsenal are on top of the standings, tied with Leicester at 44 points but boasting a better goal differential (+16 versus +13). They’ve drawn their last two (both nil-nil), but have won four straight at home and seven of ten at the Emirates on the year.
Not only will Arsenal have home-field advantage on their side come Sunday, but two key pieces will be back for the offense. Playmaker Mesut Ozil will be available and so will striker Alexis Sanchez. Just like with Hazard on the Chelsea sideline, though, there are still questions about how many minutes they’ll be able to muster.
“The good news is that Özil certainly will be available and, for Sánchez, the next two days will be decisive, though, this time, I think he will make it for selection,” said manager Arsene Wenger to Sky Sports UK.
“The doubt is about him [Sanchez] having been out for a long time and the risk of a setback,” the manager continued. “To be clear on all the tests is one thing. To be clear after training is another.”
Chelsea actually won their first meeting against Arsenal this season, 2-0 at Etihad back in September, and Arsenal haven’t beaten the Blues at home since the 2010-11 season. But Chelsea still don’t have a solid approach under Hiddink. Expect a highly motivated Arsenal side to make a statement at home and break the streak.
Pick: Arsenal (+110).
(Photo credit: Singha94 (Photo déchargée directement de l’appareil photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)