Arsenal 1.95, the Draw 3.40, Chelsea 3.75
When these two sides met at Stamford Bridge back in October, both sets of defences went AWOL for long periods and a chaotic game ensued as Arsenal came from behind to seal an unlikely 5-3 away win. At times, it resembled park football – actually it was worse than that – it was like a Scottish Premier League match.
A repeat of that scoreline seems unlikely and not just because Chelsea’s alleged defender David Luiz is likely to be out through injury. At this stage of the season, there is just too much to play for, and with both teams looking at the last two Champions League slots, we can expect a far more cagey affair.
Much has been said since the FA Cup semi-final dates were announced about the so-called fatigue factor. Surely Chelsea would struggle with an early Saturday kick-off at the Emirates after playing Spurs late on Sunday evening before hosting Barcelona on Wednesday night. Fast forward to the eve of the Arsenal game and there is no evidence of tiredness playing its part so far. After brushing aside Tottenham, Chelsea went against many predictions by beating Barca by the narrowest of margins.
Crucially however, Roberto Di Matteo has promised to make changes ahead of this game so maybe he believes in the cliché that is the fatigue factor. "We will have to assess the players but there is a good chance some fresh ones will come in," said the caretaker boss. For teams that aren’t bankrolled by a Russian billionaire, this might be an issue but for Chelsea, those replacements are likely to include Fernando Torres, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will take the opportunity to field a full strength side, although Mikel Arteta has now joined long term injury victims Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere on the sidelines. Sadly for Arsenal fans, their side has not had to endure the distractions of Champions League football or FA Cup semi-finals this week, but they were in action on Monday night, suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic (well it was certainly a shock for those who might have followed my suggestion to stake their mortgage on a home win).
Therefore, if you’re going to judge this based purely on Arsenal’s form then good luck. In their last ten games in all competitions, Wenger’s men have beaten the likes of Manchester City, Spurs, Liverpool, Newcastle, Everton and AC Milan. Meanwhile, their two defeats in that time have come at the hands of lowly Wigan and QPR. While the Gunners suffered those shock defeats against relegation threatened opposition, these two teams are far more evenly matched. Wigan and QPR were fighting for their Premiership lives while Chelsea are not likely to come at Arsenal with such abandon.
There is too much at stake here as well, and Chelsea may be looking beyond faltering Tottenham’s fourth place and have an eye on eclipsing Arsenal into finishing third. They know defeat will effectively end that hope, while Wenger will also be aware that if he concedes three points here, the spectre of Europa League football becomes a possibility once again.
I never like to tip a draw because it always seems like a case of sitting on the fence, but I just can’t see either team breaking the other down. Odds of 3.40 actually seem good value for this outcome but if you want to extend them further, a 1-1 correct scoreline with take them out to 6.75.
Under 2.5 goals is another option at 1.90, but if you did want to ignore everything I’ve just said, a repeat of a 5-3 win for Arsenal is available at a cool 250.0.