Arsenal will look to reclaim their spot at the top of the table with victory over their London rivals as they entertain Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners are going into this one on the back of pressure from both Manchester City and Leicester, who are also starting to look like serious title contenders.
But when it comes down to results with Arsenal the manager has ensured he can only focus on making sure his side can pick up a steady run of form with 16 games to go.
Arsene Wenger released all of the latest squad information ahead of the weekend’s action and hinted there could be a number of changes from the lineup that drew 1-1 with Stoke.
Chelsea, on the other hand will just want to pick up a performance capable of building some confidence, as their shock Premier League slump has left them in 14th coming into this weekend.
The boss confirmed a number of positive updates earlier in the week and it looks as if he’ll finally have some options on the bench if and when he needs to change our style of play.
Following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Alexis is back in contention to start this one meaning the places of both Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell are in jeopardy.
Midfield maestro Mesut Ozil will want to get back into the mood as well after missing last weekend’s action with a slight foot injury. Mikel Arteta is also available for selection.
Despite his excellent early comeback Francis Coquelin will have to wait another week before he’s eligible, the defensive midfielder returned to training in midweek. That, however, isn’t the biggest blow as January signing Mohamed Elneny has a chance to make his debut for the club following a weeks training at London Colney.
Completing the injury list is Danny Welbeck who will join full training on Monday, whilst Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will have to miss this one through long-term problems.
Guus Hiddink can’t have too many complaints with his injury list at the moment, with only one name missing for the London derby on Sunday afternoon.
Former Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao remains out with a muscle related injury, leaving both Loic Remy and Diego Costa as the options in attack.
Costa is beginning to pick up a good run of form following five goals in his last six games but the Chelsea interim boss admitted he hadn’t trained too much this week.
Eden Hazard has returned to full training during the week and will establish himself back into the starting lineup should Hiddink thinks he deserves a place.
One To Watch
Arsenal – Mesut Ozil
Easily the Gunners player of the season so far, and his ‘slight foot injury’ last week could have been a blessing in disguise. Arsenal really missed him last week and with the likes of Alexis to feed in through a defence lacking confidence should have the German ace rubbing his hands.
Chelsea – Willian
Dangerous from set pieces and the only good thing Chelsea could shout about in the first half of their dismal season, Willian has the ability to turn results on their head. This will be a brilliant fight down the right flank with an in-form Nacho Monreal aiming to stop the winger.
Emotions may play a part in this weekend’s action for Petr Cech who will come up against his former side for the third time this season.
Despite the recent lack of clean sheets, Wenger will stick with a similar back four to what we’ve seen for most of the season, and Nacho Monreal will celebrate his contract extension with another start.
The impressive Hector Bellerin will be in charge of dealing with Chelsea’s wide threat whilst Wenger could be tempted to partner Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel despite the centre backs red card in our last outing against Chelsea.
Moving through the lineup and this is where some changes are likely to be made with Mathieu Flamini looking lackluster in recent fixtures. Games like this are specifically what Mohamed Elneny was bought for and the 23-year-old’s agility will be key to keeping up with Chelsea’s attacking threat. Ramsey will partner the holding midfielder in a position he’s really beginning to enjoy.
Our front three now has the capability to change again, and we have three wingers all competing for the same right-wing role. However, I believe Theo Walcott will get the axe this weekend to make way for standout man Alexis Sanchez. He’ll be itching to link up with leading assist holder Mesut Ozil and then we’ll see the in-form Joel Campbell complete a good looking attacking setup.
With Walcott dropped to the bench it will provide Wenger an option should Olivier Giroud be struggling to fire home, but with 18 goals in all competitions so far the Frenchman is really in the mood to take on a shaky Chelsea defence.
Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Campbell, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
This side still haven’t lost under their interim manager but at the same time are yet to establish their best lineup, but there’s no doubt Thibaut Courtois will start between the sticks.
Despite a slow start to the campaign, Branislav Ivanovic signed a contract extension in the week and his presence will be felt with fellow up and coming full-back Cesar Azpilicueta.
John Terry’s last minute equaliser at Stamford Bridge last weekend was controversial in itself, and the captain will aim to shut out Olivier Giroud whilst standing tall with Kurt Zouma.
Sitting in front of the defence will be Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel, who are at the full front of shutting down Mesut Ozil and ultimately frustrating the Gunners.
Following his MOTM performance last weekend former Gunner Cesc Fabregas will make a return to the Emirates Stadium and will have nothing short of an unwelcome reception.
His job will be to feed in both Willian and Eden Hazard who are having mixed seasons to say the least. Hazard will be eager to step up in a big game like this after Real Madrid’s transfer ban was confirmed a few days ago.
Up top will be the familiar site of Diego Costa who is getting back into the mood at the moment. If he can cope with the persistent abuse from the home support he could be a massive threat.
Predicted XI: Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Matic, Willian, Fabregas, Hazard, Costa