Antonio Conte’s men have responded well after their opening-day defeat by Burnley, winning their subsequent three matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Leicester City. The most recent of those triumphs, a 2-1 success at the King Power Stadium last weekend, featured a third goal in four matches from Alvaro Morata, who has hit the ground running following his big-money move from Real Madrid. There were some question marks raised about the Spanish striker when it became clear he would be Diego Costa’s replacement at Stamford Bridge this season, but he has silenced the doubters in recent weeks with some excellent performances.
Chelsea in general have been back to their best, showcasing the type of balance and solidity which brought them the Premier League title last term. Conte was patently unhappy with the club’s transfer business in the summer – despite the additions of Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Davide Zappacosta, Antonio Rudiger and Danny Drinkwater, the Blues missed out on a host of other targets – but the former Juventus and Italy head coach is a master at getting every last drop out of the players at his disposal. Chelsea may not quite have the level of strength in depth Conte would have liked, but they will still be highly competitive in the weeks and months to come.
Arsenal got back to winning ways last time out, comfortably dispatching of Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium after back-to-back away defeats by Stoke City and Liverpool. It has been a mixed start to the campaign for the Gunners – their only other Premier League game was a topsy-turvy 4-3 triumph over Leicester – with familiar doubts about their defensive solidity and tactical structure resurfacing in the opening weeks.
A positive performance and result is therefore vital for the north Londoners this weekend, particularly as their record away from home against their big-six rivals has been pitiful in recent years. Collecting all three points at Stamford Bridge would represent a real statement of intent and bolster the belief that Arsenal are capable of challenging for the title, but Wenger will have to set his team up with a lot more intelligence and nous than he did at Anfield before the international break.
Chelsea have no major injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s showdown, while club captain Gary Cahill is also available again following a three-match ban. Eden Hazard looks likely to begin a competitive club fixture for the first time this campaign, with Pedro Rodriguez and Willian vying for the remaining spot on the opposite flank; in midfield, meanwhile, Conte may opt for Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante ahead of Cesc Fabregas. Rudiger has performed well so far in 2017/18 and should keep his place despite Cahill’s return, while Zappacosta is pushing Victor Moses hard for the right wing-back berth.
Arsenal will be unable to call upon the services of Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Calum Chambers (groin) and Santi Cazorla (plantaris), but all of Wenger’s first-choice options are available for selection. It will be interesting to see whether the Frenchman persists with his 3-4-2-1 formation and a midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, who were utterly outplayed in the recent loss to Liverpool. Alexis Sanchez could be in line for a start at Stamford Bridge, although Danny Welbeck’s brace against Bournemouth gives Wenger a decision to make at the top of the pitch.
Taking everything into account, it is worth backing Chelsea to win this one. A 2-0 victory looks like a good option in the correct scoreline market, while Hazard would be a sensible choice to score anytime.