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Arsenal vs. Chelsea: match preview, eeeep

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Arsenal vs. Chelsea
The He Who Shall Not Be Named Cup
Saturday, April 21, 7:45 AM EDT
Emirates Stadium, London N5, UK
Televisual Coverage: ESPN 2,, ESPN Deportes
SBN Chelsea Perspective: We Ain't Got No History

Arsenal welcome Chelsea to the Emirates tomorrow for a crucial, crucial Premier League match. The Blues sit seven points behind Arsenal with a game in hand, and despite being alive in the current Champions League, they will want to do everything they can to ensure finishing at least fourth this year. Currently, Tottenham and Newcastle stand in their way. Arsenal know that they must win tomorrow to keep their fate in their own hands with Spurs snapping at their heels.

It's going to be massive. Follow us after the jump for more thoughts.

First, the injury news: the big ones are obviously Mikel Arteta being out for Arsenal and Didier Drogba being out for Chelsea. This means that Fernando Torres is going to start at the head of the line for the Blues, while for Arsenal, we will most likely see Aaron Ramsey at attacking midfield in front of a double pivot of Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky. This makes sense, as Aidan Gibson described here the other day, as Rosicky can control the tempo of the match more than Ramsey can, and Ramsey's main strength right now lies in making runs into the opposition's penalty area for chances on goal.

I briefly conversed with Stephen Schmidt of We Ain't Got No History about how he feels Chelsea will set up in light of Drogba's absence tomorrow, and he reckoned that they will use a double pivot of Michael Essien and Raul Meireles in front of a back four of Jose Bosingwa, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and Ashley Cole. Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata, and Florent Malouda, along with Torres, would make up the attack, as Stephen feels that Ramires and Kalou will be saved for Chelsea's match at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. He also added that Chelsea may have an advantage in that Chelsea will be "getting Arsenal away when the team has been training for Barca tactics anyway[; Arsenal are] about as similar a model as you'll find in the Premier League."

One boost for Arsenal will come in the form of Kieran Gibbs, who is back in the squad. Andre Santos obviously helped when Arsenal won 5-3 at Stamford Bridge a few months back, but his tendency to drift inside isn't ideal for an Arsenal squad that has relied on attacking from wide areas in their recent success. As Saurabh at Chronicles of Almunia notes in his scouting report:

If the defence does manage to set up, then quick, one touch passing to get in behind the back line is a possibility but the better option would be attacking from out wide. A lot of chances against Chelsea in the last few games have been cut backs from the byline, when the back four are far too deep into the box, leaving an open gap for a midfielder to run into and have a shot on goal.

Getting in behind Chelsea from wide areas is super difficult if the fullbacks don't stay out wide, so Gibbs will be a boost.

All in all, the match is shaping up to be a dandy. Arsenal have sprung back well from disappointing performances recently, and Chelsea are going to be looking to win as well, so the match could be wide open.

Match prediction: Arsenal win 2-1. Gunnersaurus eats Stamford Lion. Andre Santos grows a Kuato. EDIT: a Kuato that predicts Roberto di Matteo's future.