Friday, 28 October 2011

EPL: Chelsea v Arsenal preview

For Chelsea this game comes a month later than ideal. The Arsenal side they will face at Stamford Bridge is much improved from the ragged, confidence-shorn outfit that had plunged the Gunners into crisis by mid-September. Beaten by Liverpool, Manchester United, and then outmanoeuvred by Blackburn, Arsene Wenger's team found themselves in the bottom half of the Premier League. But since that defeat at Ewood Park they have made steady progress towards respectability. However, they are on a poor run away from home and, as good as victories against Bolton, Sunderland and Stoke have been, beating Chelsea on their own patch is a completely different prospect. Andre Villas Boas' side have gone about their business effectively so far this season. Defeat against QPR was an unexpected setback, but even with nine men they could, and should, have salvaged a point.

Villas-Boas has no concerns about John Terry's state of mind for the Barclays Premier League clash in the midst of the racism inquiry faced by his captain. Ramires is fit to return following a knee injury, Fernando Torres is set to start a domestic match for the first time in more than a month following his three-game ban, Didier Drogba is still suspended, as is Ross Turnbull, while Hilario has flu. Michael Essien (knee) will still be missing from midfield.

Thomas Vermaelen has crucially been included in the Arsenal squad despite suffering a minor knock in the Carling Cup win over Bolton. A late decision will be made on the availability of right-back Carl Jenkinson (knee) but Kieran Gibbs (groin) is out, along with Jack Wilshere (ankle), Bacary Sagna (ankle) and Abou Diaby (also ankle).

Facts and stats
The Blues have taken 31 points from the last 33 available at Stamford Bridge, but have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight home Premier League outings.

The suspended Didier Drogba has scored 13 goals in 14 appearances against Arsenal in all competitions. Arsenal’s record against Chelsea with him playing is W1 D3 L10, but in his absence Arsenal have won two, drawn one and lost none.

Arsenal have won none of their last eight Premier League away matches, their worst run since 1992; the last time they went nine without a win was April 1988.

Arsenal have won six times in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge, more often than any other team.

Robin van Persie has scored 25 goals in 26 Premier League appearances in 2011.

The Dutchman has scored 11 goals in his last 12 Premier League away games and scored two at Stamford Bridge in November 2008, the last time the Gunners won away at Chelsea.

The Gunners have only been able to win three of their last 18 matches against Chelsea in all competitions, but did win 3-1 at the Emirates in December last season (excluding Community Shield).

The Gunners have conceded five goals from free kicks this season, more than any other team.

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