It's a clash of the titans...Finally Up For The Fight?
Arsene Wenger's charges might be relieved this game doesn't fall on Boxing Day, as if there is one criticism regularly thrown at the side in recent weeks, it is that they are rarely up for a fight.
Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the biggest games, which Arsenal have conspicuously failed to win in recent times. Both matches against their nearest rivals, Manchester United and Chelsea, were lost last season, and they have started this campaign in similarly poor fashion. Their recent 1-0 defeat to United was disappointing, but they can get back on track with a psychologically important win against the Blues, who got the better of their first meeting earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, Arsenal's form at home has not been impressive this season. If they were to lose on Monday, it would be the first time since 1996-97 the club had lost four games at home, and the earliest they reached the mark since the Premier League's inception. The Gunners may have scored the most home goals of any side so far this season, but they have also conceded the most — something that will not have escaped Chelsea's attention.
This is the 175th meeting between the two sides; Arsenal will be desperate to ensure it is a defining one.
Hoping To Beat Another To Get Back Into Shape
Chelsea have picked up just three points from their last possible 12, a disappointing haul that they will be hoping to double come Monday evening. Having won the last five meetings with their London rivals (and having only lost two of the last 18) they will be feeling pretty confident of achieving that aim.
Not that it has been all plain sailing in recent weeks for the champions, as they have seen their five-point lead atop the table quickly disintegrate. Lose against Arsenal on Monday, and they could find themselves six points behind the leaders — a worrying position to be in even at this stage of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti will not be thinking in such pessimistic tones, however, and will be hoping the return of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to the starting lineup will provide the Blues with the fillip they currently seem to need. Lampard will be named in the starting lineup for the first time since August, a welcome addition, but it is Drogba who the Italian might be particularly concerned with.
Drogba has been out of form in recent times, after suffering a bout of malaria, which saw him dropped for the game against Spurs (a game he would eventually change as a second-half substitute). Ancelotti will be hoping that is an indication he is back to his best — with the Ivorian having scored 13 in his last 11 games against Arsenal, that single fact could be enough to ensure the Blues get back on track with their first win in six.
Wojciech Sczcesny was one of the bright spots from Arsenal's defeat in their last match against Manchester United, but was denied a follow-up opportunity to impress after the game against Stoke City was cancelled. In the meantime Lukasz Fabianski has returned to fitness, and so will likely remain as Arsene Wenger's starting goalkeeper.
Outfield Cesc Fabregas will be fit enough to start the game (as should Abou Diaby), but Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs and Manuel Almunia all remain unavailable. Wenger's main decision will likely be whether to choose Marouane Chamakh or Robin van Persie to lead the line.
Possible starting line-up: Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy; Song, Wilshere, Fabregas; Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh.
After a draw with Tottenham Hotspur that showed a slight improvement on previous games, Chelsea will be ready to welcome back both Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard to the starting lineup. Carlo Ancelotti will hope both quickly return to top form.
The Italian is without the likes of Alex, Yury Zhirkov and Yossi Benayoun, who all still have longer term concerns, while Jose Bosingwa's availability is a doubt after missing the Spurs game with a hamstring injury.
Possible starting line-up: Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Essien, Lampard; Malouda, Anelka, Drogba.