Monday 18 December 2017

Wenger: Chelsea clash is still massive

Boss knows all eyes are on title-chasing Gunners in derby clash with Blues

Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard is set to return for tomorrow’s clash at Arsenal Photo:Getty
Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard is set to return for tomorrow’s clash at Arsenal Photo:Getty
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is relishing tomorrow’s derby clash with Chelsea at the Emirates Photo: Reuters

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal's meeting with Chelsea tomorrow remains a big game despite the travails of the Blues this season.

Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea travel across London to the Emirates Stadium a massive 19 points behind the Gunners, who sit top of the table on goal difference.

A 2-0 victory over Arsenal in September is one of just six league wins all season for last years' title winners, with Guus Hiddink now at the helm following Jose Mourinho's sacking.

Wenger's side have already proven they now have the steel to beat their main rivals - with victories over Manchester United, Manchester City and Leicester already secured.

And the Frenchman believes the visit of Chelsea is another chance for his players to show Arsenal can win their first title in 12 years.

"It's another game where people look at us and see how we behave," he said.


"Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, look at their squad. It's a big game because of the quality of the players on the pitch.

"It has a big importance to us as well. We play at the Emirates and know how important it will be to win this game."

Olivier Giroud also feels the need to beat Chelsea as the France striker knows there are a number of clubs who are still involved in the title picture.

Arsenal have drawn their last two games, conceding a late leveller in a 3-3 draw at Liverpool before being held to a 0-0 at Stoke, but remain top as other title contenders also struggle for consistency.

"We needed to bounce back after the Southampton defeat (on St Stephen's Day) and now we are on a really good run," he said.

"It's a bit of a shame that we conceded a draw at the end of the Liverpool game, but it was a fantastic game for the spectators and it was one of the best games I've played in for Arsenal.

"The race is very tight because Leicester City and Manchester City will be fighting as well. We have a bit of an advantage over Manchester United and Tottenham at the moment but they could come back if you lose two games, you never know.

"It's not original but it's true that you always have to question yourself. I used to say that football is an everlasting new beginning and that's like life too.

"Every week you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to give your maximum so that you can win every possible game."

Meanwhile, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are in contention to play for Chelsea at Arsenal after returning to training following injury.

Playmaker Hazard has missed the last three matches with a groin injury sustained at Crystal Palace, while striker Costa sustained a bruised shin in last Saturday's last-gasp draw with Everton.

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink said: "The last two days he (Hazard) was in full commitment with first-team training, so he is available.

"We have to be careful, because he has fallen into some injuries recently.

"I'm not sure whether he can play a full 90 minutes yet. We have to consider whether it's best (for him) to start or to come in."

Costa had scans immediately after the draw with Everton, with the results showing no fracture and just bruising.

The Brazil-born Spain striker returned to training on Thursday.

Hiddink added: "He (Costa) will be available as well."

Meanwhile, Branislav Ivanovic has signed a one-year contract extension with Chelsea

The 31-year-old Serbia defender was entering the final months of his existing deal, but will now stay on until the summer of 2017.

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