Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Wednesday looking to reduce the gap to Liverpool in the race to finish fourth and qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
The Gunners trail the Reds by six points and have won just two of their last seven matches in the league after being held to a 1-1 draw by West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Eve. By contrast, Chelsea have won their last two, scoring seven goals in the process.
A win would see the Blues leapfrog Manchester United into second place.
Before a preview and look at the team news, here are the schedule and
Date: Wednesday, January 3
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT, 2:45 p.m. ET.
Arsenal could again be without Mesut Ozil, who missed the trip to the Hawthorns because of a knee problem. Manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports (h/t MailOnline’s Tom Farmery) there is “little chance” the Germany international will feature against Chelsea.
The Gunners missed Ozil’s craft against the Baggies, becoming slow-paced and predictable in possession. Wenger’s squad is short of creative options, with Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey also injured.
It means the onus will again be on star forward Alexis Sanchez to exert his influence more often in the final third. The Chile international scored twice during the recent 3-2 win over Crystal Palace, and OptaJoe detailed how much he loves playing teams from the English capital:
Wenger must hope for some more derby magic from Sanchez but may need to rotate in other areas. Jack Wilshere has started the last five games in the league, but it might be wise to rest him, given his lengthy injury history.
Meanwhile, centre-back Laurent Koscielny asked to come off against the Baggies as he dealt with an issue, per Warren Haughton of The Sun. Wenger had already replaced Sead Kolasinac with Ainsley Maitland-Niles after the former struggled to shake off a heavy challenge from West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry, according to Metro.
Considering fellow left-sided defender Nacho Monreal is also out, Wenger could revert to a back four after playing three central defenders in Arsenal’s last two matches.
Playing three at the back would match Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 shape, but the Gunners boss has switched formations regularly recently and may prefer having an extra player at the heart of midfield.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will be hoping Eden Hazard is focused after resting the prolific winger for the 5-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday.
Another victory would offer Wenger’s squad a significant psychological advantage ahead of the two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final later in January. However, a Chelsea side in fine form has the quality to prolong Arsenal’s struggles in the league.