Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership: Arsenal v Chelsea

Match Of The Weekend (TOMORROW, 4PM, SKY)
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Last season: 2-0

GIANLUCA VIALLI'S Blues are undefeated in the Premiership since the opening day of the season, and will be eager to prove their 5-0 thumping of Arsene Wenger's team in the Worthington Cup in November was not a case of the Gunners keeping their powder dry.

Past form, however, would point to Highbury's French connection having the edge over their neighbours. Chelsea have only won once in their last 16 visits to Highbury, by a solitary goal in March 1990.

One thing that can always be guaranteed when these two fierce rivals - who won all three domestic trophies between them last season - go head- to-head is plenty of fireworks. In recent seasons, Franck Leboeuf and Lee Dixon have both seen red, and referee Graham Poll will do well to prevent things spilling over tomorrow.

Key to their side's chances will be Emmanuel Petit (left) and compatriot Marcel Desailly (right). World Cup winners both, their performances will go some way to deciding this game, and perhaps the championship itself. Petit, fresh from another flashpoint at Molineux last weekend, which further enhanced his reputation as unquestionably talented but flawed temperamentally, has yet to see the FA rule on his latest misdemeanour. However, it's almost certain this game will be one of his last before yet another ban.

Desailly, the powerhouse at the heart of his side's cause, has been a revelation since his summer move from Milan. Even he, though, is a victim of Stamford Bridge's rotation system, a concept he is familiar with from his days at the San Siro. The Accra-born player has already hinted he will leave for pastures new if his side carry off their first title since 1955, the only time in their 94-year history the championship has resided in the trophy cabinet at SW6.

Although Chelsea are still in Europe and on the road to Wembley in the FA Cup despite the fright of their lives against Oxford, do not be fooled. This is the biggest game of their season, and it means as much to Vialli to wrest the Premiership from Wenger's grasp as it does to the studious Frenchman to retain the crown. Wenger will have David Seaman available after recovery from injury, and aside from Patrick Vieira (suspended) has a near fully fit squad from which to select his side tomorrow.

With so much at stake, and the Gunners mean-spirited defence not easy to breach, the game might not be a classic. For the red-and-white clad bastions of north London, though, and the resurgent massed ranks of blue who will arrive at the famous old marble halls, the significance of its outcome cannot be underestimated.

SQUADS: to be announced.

Suspension: Arsenal: Vieira.

Referee: G Poll.

Comments