By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- Top four rivals Arsenal and Chelsea face off at the Emirates Stadium in GW 23’s Game of the Week
- Under pressure Claude Puel’s Leicester City travel to Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers
- A Harry Kane-less Spurs roll up to Craven Cottage in Sunday afternoon’s London derby versus Fulham
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – The capital takes centre stage again this weekend, as Arsenal and Chelsea face off at the Emirates Stadium in Gameweek 23’s Game of the Week
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Game of the Week: Arsenal vs Chelsea (Saturday, 17:30)
Niall: The battle for a UEFA Champions League place is one of the most intense in any Premier League season, and this meeting between north and west London could be pivotal in deciding who plays at European football’s top table next season.
A loss for the Gunners may put them too far behind the Blues to catch them. Currently the gap is six points, which itself is a hard task to close, but nine may be a bridge too far. This game in that sense could be the biggest in Arsenal’s season and if history tells us anything, it is a sizeable task.
Arsenal have won only one of their last 14 Premier League meetings with Chelsea, losing eight in the process. The Blues are very much a bogey team for their London rivals and that makes Unai Emery’s men the underdogs heading into this one.
However, you could argue that Arsenal should have gotten something at Stamford Bridge earlier on in the season. Poor finishing cost them that day and Chelsea were able to come through 3-2 in a thrilling match, thanks in most part to the-then profligate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And goals should be guaranteed in this one too. Matches involving Arsenal average a league high of 3.55 goals per 90 with many of them coming in the second half. Chelsea have lost a lot of their attacking edge after their great start to the season so the dynamics could work for the Gunners heading into this match, but the defence is unreliable and that could lead to dropped points despite a positive performance.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea
Neil: This is potentially the last chance for the hosts to keep themselves in the top four argument. After a hugely successful opening half of the season, the Gunners have hit their first real rocky patch of the term and last Saturday’s loss to West Ham underlined that.
Having been able to rely on the services of their joint top-scoring Gabonese striker, Aubameyang was starved of the ball at the London Stadium which will be worrying ahead of this game.
As documented however, even before he hit his straps in front of goal when the two sides met earlier this season, the Gunners’ hitman was guilty of wasting a number of gilt-edged chances against the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Aubameyang will be keen on righting those wrongs in front of his own fans here.
With Eden Hazard‘s form having hit the buffers for the visitors respectively, Pedro and Willian have been the driving force for Maurizio Sarri‘s side, but the Belgian has rarely shirked the opportunity to shine versus Arsenal and I believe that will be the case again this weekend.
I also don’t believe either side’s defence is currently covering themselves with glory which should again see goals aplenty. I think the Gunners will bounce back here, but I can’t quite see how the host’s pick up the win with their defence in the state it is. A scoring draw is a very likely result here.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea
Niall’s One to Watch: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Leicester City (Saturday, 12:30)
The meeting of these two sides perhaps does not have the stakes of many of the matches this weekend. It has nothing to do with either the relegation battle or the title race, but this is one to watch because it may be the most closely contested match of the weekend.
That is not to say it has riding on in. Both clubs are fighting for a European place and are part of the middle table pack who are almost in their own mini-league looking to land seventh place. Three points for either side could be huge and that may end up being the difference between them making European football.
Interestingly, both have been better away from home this season, but it is the Foxes who come into this game in the better form overall. They have picked up nine points in their last five, whilst the hosts have only picked up four in their last five.
Despite that, there seems to be mounting pressure of Claude Puel who could be managing his last game for the Foxes this weekend. After a 2-1 home defeat to Southampton last weekend, a loss here could spell the end of the Frenchman’s time at the King Power stadium.
No matter which way this goes, it will probably be a close match. Wolves have had matches this season where they have been the better team but failed to convert it into a win, and this feels like it could be one of those.
Both teams will be keen to make a statement following respective defeats last time out, but, ultimately, that desire may result in a spoil of the shares in the Black Country.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Leicester City
Neil’s One to Watch: Fulham vs Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday, 16:00)
For me, this should be fascinating to round of the weekend’s action. On paper and at full strength, Spurs should have no problems dispatching their Cottagers hosts, but for Sunday’s game their are a number of factors in play.
Not least the absence of Harry Kane, whose ligament-induced injury is a massive blow to the Lilywhites. One might suggest that perhaps Son Heung-min could ably fill the boots of the England skipper with aplomb, but with the South Korean away at the Asian Cup, Mauricio Pochettino has food for thought.
Fernando Llorente is a clear choice to play as number nine following his FA Cup hat-trick a fortnight ago, but with all respect to the Spaniard the Premier League is a different testing ground altogether. Dele Alli and Lucas Moura are more than able to shoulder the burden, but those two key absence make this a little more difficult to call.
Despite their improvements under Claudio Ranieri, Fulham still find themselves languishing at the foot of the table. Last weekend’s lost to Burnley was the icing on the cake for their latest woes, with the Clarets winning a game without having a shot on target after a brace of own-goals at Turf Moor.
The hosts however will be up for this and even a point could make a huge difference to the rest of their season. Aleksandar Mitrovic has the tools to cause havoc in the Lilywhites’ defence this weekend and I tip the Serbian striker to break his goal drought here.
Will that be enough? It’s hard to see the hosts keeping their more illustrious opponents out even without Kane and Son and for that reason, I am backing Fulham to pick up a perhaps unlikely point here.
Prediction: Fulham 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League Game of the Week takes place on Saturday evening, as Arsenal host Chelsea in a London derby at the Emirates Stadium
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