EPL preview: Arsenal, Chelsea battle for London pride
The first heavy-weight clash of the capital takes place this weekend and a lot of things are at stake for both managers. For Arsene Wenger, he will want to begin this new era of rivalry with a win at home after losing the dominance he used to enjoy in this fixture with Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Chelsea twelve years ago. He will hope to rekindle it with a first derby victory over Antonio Conte, the new man in charge at Stamford Bridge.
One thing a lot of football fans will be looking forward to in this tie is to see if former Arsenal ‘golden boy’ Cesc Fabregas will start against his ‘beloved’ gunners after his two goal heroics against Leicester in an EFL Cup tie in midweek.
John Terry would have to pass a late fitness test to be available for selection in what seems to be Conte’s only injury worry.
Arsene Wenger will have to sweat over the recovery and fitness of Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal’s big money summer signing, Granit Xhaka has started showing signs of settling into the English game and will soon be difficult to leave on the bench, while Lucas Perez who scored his first couple of goals for Arsenal in midweek will hope to make his first league start for the club.
It’s amazing that Arsenal have failed to score a league goal against Chelsea in three years and that is one statistic that Arsene Wenger would love to change, but getting a victory will even feel better for the Frenchman as he hasn’t been able to celebrate a league win over Chelsea in half a decade.
Expect both managers to field their strongest possible squads and Arsenal to be the team with the more attacking intent and majority of the possession as Conte is known for his defensive philosophy and counter attacking tactics.
In the Northern part of the country, Manchester United will kick off the weekend’s fixtures with a home game against the defending champions, Leicester, whom they’ve already beaten once this season and will be hoping for a similar result to get back to winning ways after two straight losses in the league.
Jose Mourinho had the best of starts at Manchester United, but the wheels seem to have come off in the last week as his troops lost three games on the bounce, before getting a scrappy 3-1 win over league one Northampton town in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, they will need a victory over the foxes and try to string together a couple of more wins to get back on track. The questions of which formation will get the best out of world record signing, Paul Pogba and If Wayne Rooney is still relevant to the team or hampering it will be asked again. Marcus Rashford continued his goal scoring exploits in midweek and will be looking to start this one.
After last season’s fairy tale run by Leicester to win the league, reality seems to be hitting the champions flush in the face with a couple of away losses in the league already this season and being dumped out of the EFL Cup by Chelsea in midweek, despite taking a 2-0 lead early in the game.
Record signing Islam Slimani grabbed a brace against Burnley on his premier league debut last weekend and will want to show that he can also do it against the big teams in this league.
Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial are all injury doubts for this one, while there seems to be no place for Bastian Schweinsteiger in Mourinho’s Man United. Nampalys Mendy is the only unavailable player for Claudio Ranieri, whose major problem will be whether to reward Shinji Okazaki with a start after his brace against Chelsea or stick with Slimani as Jamie Vardy’s partner upfont.
Both teams have scored in each of their last five meetings and United are unbeaten in four of those. Leicester haven’t won at Old Trafford since 1998, although this seems to be their best chance with Mourinho and his United side under severe pressure and scrutiny to perform at the theatre of dreams.
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