A mouthwatering London derby is on the cards on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Arsenal to the Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
Chelsea are slowly recovering from a disappointing start to the season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino. They went into the international break on the back of a three-match winning streak in all competitions. The Blues registered back-to-back Premier League victories under Pochettino for the first time, scoring six times in wins against Fulham and Burnley.
On the other hand, Arsenal are one of only two teams in the Premier League still unbeaten after eight fixtures, level on points with arch-rivals Tottenham but inferior goals scored tally keeps them second in the table. The Gunners entered the international break on a high following a 1-0 win over Manchester City at home, and they will be heading to Stamford Bridge with a lot of confidence.
With that being said, here are the three key battles to watch out for that could define the outcome of the game.
#Bukayo Saka vs Levi Colwill
Bukayo Saka faces a late fitness test ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Chelsea. The English winger has been out since the start of October after suffering a hamstring injury against RC Lens in the Champions League, which forced him to miss the 1-0 league win over Man City.
We feel Saka will be fit to start for Arsenal, as Mikel Arteta wishes to continue the winning momentum. Saka has arguably been the Gunners’ best player so far this season, bagging four goals and two assists in seven league appearances. Standing in the 22-year-old’s way will likely be Levi Colwill.
Colwill has been filling in for the injured Ben Chilwell, and while Marc Cucurella is fit and available, Pochettino is likely to stick with the 20-year-old at left-back. He has started every league game for Chelsea this season and impressed with his passing range, physicality, positioning and reading of the game.
So, this is shaping up to be a key battle between two bright young English talents, and the one who wins it could have a big say in the outcome of the game.
#Enzo Fernandez vs Declan Rice
Summer signing Declan Rice has enjoyed a fantastic start to life at Arsenal, starting all eight league games. The Englishman has been one of the Gunners’ best players, producing an excellent performance in the middle of the park in the 1-0 win over Man City before the international break.
There are high chances of the 24-year-old retaining his place in Arteta’s first XI against Chelsea. Rice will be a key player for the hosts to keep tabs on and limit the influence of if Chelsea are to keep Arsenal at bay, with Enzo Fernandez perhaps best positioned to combat his threat on the day.
Fernandez is gradually getting back his mojo under the stewardship of Pochettino, considerably sharper and hungrier. The Argentinean World Cup winner has quickly become key to Chelsea’s set up, playing with a lot of freedom from his favoured No.8 position. The 22-year-old will look to take control of the game on Saturday evening as well as keep a close watch on Rice, whose job should be to keep things ticking over for Arsenal.
All in all, the battle between Rice and Fernandez in the middle of the park promises to be an exciting one.
#Raheem Sterling vs Ben White
A seasoned campaigner against one of the division’s most consistent defenders—the encounter between Raheem Sterling and Ben White could be a thing of beauty.
Sterling looks rejuvenated this term after a forgettable first season with the Blues, and Pochettino consistently asking him to operate from his favoured role on the wing appears to be paying rich dividends. The England international starred in Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Burnley before the break, bagging a goal and two assists.
Standing at Sterling’s way at the weekend will be White. The English defender has enjoyed a strong start to the season, and having helped the Gunners keep a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Man City in the last game, he will enter this London derby with high confidence levels.
White has to be at his best to keep Sterling at bay, and if he succeeds in doing so, Arsenal’s chances of beating Chelsea will go a notch higher.
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.