Lehmann the linchpin for key Chelsea test

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The Independent Online

It has usually been the case for Arsenal in this campaign to play away after their European matches and this weekend is no exception, when they visit Chelsea on Sunday.

Although the trip from north to south-west London is not as long as their midweek excursion to Porto, it is even more exacting. No team has won a Premiership match at Stamford Bridge since Jose Mourinho took charge three summers ago, but a similar result to the goalless draw against Porto would certainly leave his Arsenal counterpart, Arsène Wenger, with the bigger smile.

Having shown their less adventurous nature on Wednesday, when they drew 0-0 against FC Porto but still qualified for the last 16 of the Champions' League, they will have to come out of their shells if they are to end that imposing home record of Chelsea under their manager.

They can remind themselves of their impressive 1-0 win at Old Trafford in September but Arsenal's life has been made harder as they will have to cope, once more, without their first-choice centre-half pairing of Kolo Touré and William Gallas. The former is suspended and the latter is, according to Wenger, only "20 per cent likely" to face his former club.

If neither makes the cut, in could come the Swiss duo of Philippe Senderos, the victim twice last season of Chelsea's current top scorer Didier Drogba, and Johann Djourou, who is a doubt due to a slight hamstring strain against Porto.

There will at least be some experience in defence in the shape of Jens Lehmann, with this being a significant game for the German goalkeeper as he will face not only his international captain, Michael Ballack, but also his former team-mate, Ashley Cole.

On the England full-back who joined Chelsea this summer, Lehmann, 37, expressed more distaste over his autobiography than the acrimonious £5m transfer. He said: "I always liked Ashley. We had big success together and I am really looking forward to playing against him. As for his book, I don't fancy books from players who are 24 or 25 who would like to tell me about their big experience. When I consider my age, I would have a lot to tell."

When asked about Cole's move, he was more generous: "He knows he gained a lot from his experiences at Arsenal but it was time for him to move onwards. I can't really blame him. He's a fantastic lad and a very good player."

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