Chelsea look forward to welcoming a familiar foe to Stamford Bridge at lunchtime on Sunday. Arsenal are the visitors as Chelsea look to avenge defeats in last seasons FA Cup final and this season`s opening game in the Community Shield.
Chelsea`s easy victory over Qarabag in the Champions League on Tuesday allows them more recovery time than the Gunners. Arsene Wenger`s side are at home to Cologne Thursday evening, in Europe`s secondary competition the Europa League. They`ll hope to settle into a new routine of Thursday-Sunday football quickly, but psychologically teams appear to struggle with that offset schedule
In recent years the Blues have had the upper hand in these meetings, however, in the last year Wenger has secured 3 victories out of 4. Last season`s 3-0 defeat at the Emirates was the catalyst that forced the now infamous formation change by Conte that pushed Chelsea onto Premier League success.
Chelsea go into this home fixture as favourites having overcome a series of pre-season attempts to unsettle them by the media. The desire to see Chelsea fail, has, for now, crumbled. Barring the first 45 minutes of football in the Burnley game, due mainly to Gary Cahill`s rash challenge that led to red.
The remaining 405 minutes have, largely belonged to Chelsea. Even after going down to 9 men, Chelsea won that second half against Burnley 2-0. Three league wins have followed and the 6-0 demolition of Qarabag in mid-week gave Conte the chance to experiment with new players.
When Wenger arrived at Arsenal back in 1996, he was seen as a revelation, in terms of his coaching style and the ‘new` methods he brought with him. Time and stubbornness have seen his status diminish, the nouveau coaches, like Conte, have usurped his significance.
Where Wenger manages, Conte coaches. Knowing the Gunners likely set-up, the Italian will have drilled his team at Cobham to counter anything Arsenal may offer in hope of victory.
Although Chelsea`s squad does look light, their record on maintaining the player`s fitness is good. If they can continue along that vein, then, despite the negative will of the media, Antonio Conte and Chelsea can repeat recent successful campaigns on all fronts. In doing so, they can really ‘stick it to the man`.