Wenger looks forward to Chelsea clash

Updated: 25 February 2007 09:04 IST

English Premier League champions Arsenal face current leaders Chelsea in their first big clash of the season at Highbury in London on Sunday.

Wenger looks forward to Chelsea clash

London:

English Premier League champions Arsenal face current leaders Chelsea in their first big clash of the season at Highbury in London on Sunday. In recent weeks, Arsene Wenger's side have slipped five points behind their London rivals and have midfield and goalkeeping concerns going into the match. Wenger put on a brave face in front of the media on Friday at Arsenal's training ground north of London, and still maintains he has the squad to challenge Jose Mourinho's in-form team. Arsenal's hopes of retaining their English Premiership title could receive a much-needed boost on Sunday if they can beat leaders Chelsea at Highbury. But in the absence of their suspended captain, Patrick Vieira, and injured Brazilian stars Edu and Gilberto Silva, the central midfield responsibilities will fall to a teenager and a 20-year-old. Coach Arsene Wenger though, has every confidence that Cesc Fabregas - only seventeen - and Matthieu Flamini can cope with the pressure - and the likes of Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele. Whatever their midfield shortcomings, the Gunners do have the talents of striker Thierry Henry at their disposal. The French international has scored seventeen times already for Arsenal this season and has a good record against Chelsea. Wenger will be hoping that Henry can find his top form on Sunday. The Arsenal coach caused a problem in the goalkeeping department for himself when he dropped erratic German international Jens Lehmann from the side in favour of Spaniard Manuel Almunia after their 49-game unbeaten run came to an end against Manchester United in October. Almunia has proved less than solid since, but Wenger would not be drawn on who will stand between the posts against Chelsea. The last time the two sides met was in the last eight of the 2003-4 Champions' League - Chelsea went to Highbury and won 2-1, but have not beaten Arsenal in the league since 1995. Both Premiership fixtures finished 2-1 to Arsenal last season, but Wenger thinks that the English top flight's big-spenders are a better side this term. Arsenal could close to within two points of Jose Mourinho's team if they can put their recent troubles behind them and beat the Blues. On the other hand if they lose, Chelsea will go eight points clear at the top - and that might prove to be too much of a lead for Wenger and his team to run down. (AP)



Topics : Football
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