Weblog: The football punter

Fresher Chelsea can 
punish weary Gunners

Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 7.45pm Wednesday

Premier League managers have been queuing up to criticise the recent hectic schedule but Chelsea have had a less demanding festive period than most and can cash in by beating Arsenal at the Emirates.

Arsenal are preparing for their third match in six days and their squad has become stretched with Mesut Ozil picking up a knee injury in last Thursday's 3-2 win at Crystal Palace and Sead Kolasinac (ankle) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) unable to finish Sunday's 1-1 draw at West Brom.

Ozil and Koscielny will be given every chance to prove their fitness but Arsenal are at a disadvantage to Chelsea, who have had just one run out in the last seven days - winning 5-0 at home to a weakened Stoke on Saturday.

Arsenal's sense of injustice increased at the Hawthorns where they were on the wrong end of a harsh decision from referee Mike Dean, who awarded a late penalty to West Brom.

However, a point apiece was probably a fair reflection of the game after a below-par performance from the Gunners, who missed Ozil's creativity and class.

Arsenal will have a much better chance of beating Chelsea if Ozil is passed fit but there are going to be some tired legs and minds in the camp and their recent record in big games does not inspire confidence.

Over the last two years, the Gunners have won three of 21 league games against 'big six' opponents.

One of those successes was a 3-0 against Chelsea in last season's corresponding fixture, although that stands out as their only win over the Blues in the previous 12 league meetings.

Chelsea's loss away to Arsenal last term was a watershed moment - prompting a formation switch to a back three which set them up for a title-winning campaign.

Manchester City's brilliance means their defence of the title is likely to fail but Antonio Conte's side jumped into second place at the weekend and will return there if successful in north London.

Arsenal have been excellent at the Emirates this season - taking 25 points from a possible 30 - but their record at home to big six sides - (one win, one draw and one defeat) is more of a mixed bag.

Wenger will urge his players to dig deep and finish the festive period with a high-intensity performance.

However, Arsenal's performance level has been dropping since the thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool 12 days ago and they may struggle to match the Blues, who look a solid wager on the draw no bet.

Chelsea draw no bet

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Match in Focus


Ireland v Wales

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Ireland have won one of their last eight matches.
Expert verdict
Ireland were held to a dull 0-0 draw by a Denmark team missing Christian Eriksen on Saturday and may suffer another stalemate against Wales in Dublin. Only a victory would breathe life into Ireland's hopes of winning League B, Group 4 but they are hard to fancy, having failed of win any of their last four competitive games.