Arsenal host Chelsea this weekend in a match which could have huge consequences in terms of Champions League qualification.
Chelsea currently sit fourth in the Premier League, six points above Arsenal in the race for a top four finish. Maurizio Sarri’s men beat the Gunners 3-2 at Stamford Bridge just a week into the campaign, so Unai Emery will be seeking revenge.
Much has changed since the reverse fixture. Chelsea have entered and exited the title race, Arsenal went on a 22-match unbeaten run, then lost four out of seven games either side of the festive period.
Both sides will be aiming to gain some momentum going into a crucial phase of the season, and what better way to do so than by winning a Premier League London derby.
But how will the teams line up in order to secure the points? Here are some Arsenal vs Chelsea predicted XIs from several media outlets.
1. Ozil to be left out as Lacazette and Aubameyang both start
There is only one place to start with Arsenal. Will Mesut Ozil return to the starting line-up or will Unai Emery leave him out again?
In our predicted line-up, we tipped the German to miss out on a place in the line-up. In a press conference on Thursday, Emery revealed Ozil “could possibly be with us” on Saturday after a return to full training, but the manager also hinted the midfielder needs to be more consistent to stay in the side.
With that in mind, we think Emery will stick with the 3-4-3 he used against West Ham United last weekend, with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both starting in attack. Meanwhile, we’ve backed Chelsea to start with the same XI which beat Newcastle United in the previous round of fixtures.
2. Xhaka axed as Emery rotates his full-backs
With Hector Bellerin returning from injury as a substitute against West Ham, the London Evening Standard believes Unai Emery will rotate at full-back on both sides.
They think Bellerin and Nacho Monreal will come in for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac. In central midfield Granit Xhaka is tipped to be axed for Matteo Guendouzi, who will be partnered by Lucas Torreira.
Granit Xhaka has now made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League (5) than any other outfield player since the start of last season.
Awful clearance. 🎁 pic.twitter.com/H0pORtXJHW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 12, 2019
It then appears to be a consensus that the hosts will go with a front three of Alex Iwobi, Lacazette and Aubameyang.
The Evening Standard‘s predicted Arsenal XI vs Chelsea: Leno; Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny; Bellerin, Guendouzi, Torreira, Monreal; Aubameyang, Iwobi; Lacazette.
3. No striker for Chelsea as the Blues wait on Higuain
According to reports, Chelsea are close to signing Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain on loan until the end of the season. However, it seems the Blues have run out of time and the Argentinian won’t be registered to play against Arsenal.
So Chelsea have two choices. Either Olivier Giroud will lead the line in his first return to the Emirates since leaving Arsenal last January, or Sarri will continue to play without a recognised striker, instead deploying Eden Hazard in the ‘false No.9’ role. The Mirror thinks it will be the latter. In fact, the Mirror has also mooted the exact Chelsea line-up that overcame Newcastle.
The Mirror‘s predicted Chelsea XI vs Arsenal: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.
4. Arsenal midfield diamond to counter Sarri-Ball
Emery appears to have settled on a back three in recent games, but JJ Bull of the Telegraph has suggested the system doesn’t quite work and instead thinks Arsenal should use a midfield diamond.
Bull believes Xhaka would be best sitting at the base of the diamond “behind a hard-working, ball-winning midfield of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, keeping the ball moving protected by the two players ahead of him.” At the tip of the diamond, Emery would have to choose between Ozil and Aaron Ramsey to provide support for a strike partnership of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
More control in midfield should help Arsenal to break up Chelsea’s possession game and prevent Hazard from dropping deep and making things happen. At the back, Bull thinks Kolasinac is caught out of position too often, hinting Monreal should be handed a start on the left.
The Telegraph‘s predicted Arsenal XI vs Chelsea: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ramsey; Lacazette, Aubameyang.