The Blues are preparing for a match that could be pivotal in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League
Chelsea’s visit to the Emirates on Saturday is not only a London derby, but it could also see them deliver a heavy blow to Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four, and thus qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Maurizio Sarri’s side are six points ahead of their north London rivals, who have had a revolution of their own as Unai Emery takes over from Arsene Wenger after his 22-year spell in charge of the club.
The Blues are also looking over their shoulder at Manchester United, but their win over Newcastle United last week was a big boost as Arsenal lost to West Ham in another London derby.
Alvaro Morata is back in contention for Chelsea after a recent hamstring injury ruled him out of the Carabao Cup match with Tottenham. However, his future is in doubt with Atletico Madrid interested in getting a January deal over the line and he wasn’t selected to face Newcastle last weekend, despite being fit.
Cesc Fabregas has left to join Monaco, while Gary Cahill is in talks over a move to Fulham and has missed several recent matchday squads.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be out for an extended period of time with a back injury, coming off in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Forest, but Chelsea are thought to have no further injuries.
Chelsea will continue to play a full-strength team, as Eden Hazard’s deployment as a ‘false 9’ becomes plan A for Sarri with Pedro or Willian flanking him in the wide positions.
Mateo Kovacic’s return from injury will likely see him thrust back into the action and Sarri’s rare midweek without a match should ensure his team are fully prepared for Saturday.
Sarri has kept rotation to a minimum in his time as Chelsea boss; Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante have started every league match this season.
Arsenal have several out on the long-term injured list with Danny Welbeck having broken his ankle earlier in the season. Rob Holding is out with a torn cruciate ligament, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to miss out with a shorter-term foot injury.
Arsenal are thought to have a full selection available beyond those issues.