Premier League form goes out of the window this evening as Arsenal and Chelsea once again duke it out for the third time in the past three weeks. The first two have resulted in draws in both the league and the Carabao Cup, tonight in essence is the rubber match and there must be a winner of sorts.
Whether that is via the means of extra time or penalties we will have to wait and see but by the end of the evening we will know which of these two London outfits will be going on to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup Final next month.
Due to the fact the first leg a fortnight ago saw the game end in something of a bore draw means that Chelsea have failed to make use of their home advantage and if they are to progress to Wembley they are going to have to do it the hard way.
Not only that though but it seems if Arsene Wenger has Antonio Conte’s number. The Italian has failed to get the better of the Frenchman in his last five attempts, admittedly three of them have been draws (the last three in succession) but there will still be an element of frustration in the fact that the Blues have failed repeatedly to come out on top.
Tonight obviously is the first game in the post Alexis Sanchez era, albeit officially. You could argue that this has already been the case for the past couple of weeks with the former Gunner only playing a peripheral role if at all in Arsenal’s outings.
But there will at least be something of a sense of relief that the transfer talk will not overshadow this important encounter at the Emirates and Arsene Wenger and his players are free to focus on the task in hand, that task being progression on to Wembley and a second cup final in two seasons.
Arsenal have already tasted cup success over Chelsea in recent times, although that was of a different kind. That of course being their F.A. Cup win last season, one that halted Antonio Conte’s hopes of doing the double in his first year at the Stamford Bridge helm.
The Gunners cannot call on their new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan tonight due to the fact that he is cup-tied so his debut will have to wait until next Tuesday when the Gunners travel to South Wales to face relegation battling Swansea City.
They do however come into this game off the back of a comprehensive victory, that coming at the expense of Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s men were hit by a lightning fast start by Arsenal who scored four first half goals to leave the Eagles grounded.
The South London outfit may have scored a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic but that was the only blot on their copybook in what was quite an awesome performance by the Gunners last weekend. That said Chelsea make the short journey across the capital having scored a four goal haul of their own last Saturday.
Not only that but they kept a clean sheet to boot, their trip to the South Coast to face Brighton could have presented a potential banana skin what with both Pedro and Alvaro Morata suspended but Eden Hazard showed the world that the defending league champions don’t need a new striker this month with an inspired performance at The AMEX.
It may have been a resounding victory for Chelsea over Brighton but the focus after the game was on Antonio Conte and the fact that all does not seem well with him and the media as of late, was that a win that just papers over the cracks after a recent stuttering of their form.
I guess we will know the answer to that tonight as the lineup of the Carabao Cup Final is complete. Just how costly will that 0-0 draw in the first leg be for Chelsea? I have a feeling it could be an opportunity missed as I have a feeling Arsenal will edge their way into the final.