The weather forecast calls for freezing temperatures and a possibility of snow when Chelsea welcomes Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for this London derby.
These two rivals have met 75 times in their at Stamford Bridge in English play, with Chelsea winning 25, Arsenal winning 25 and 25 of those matches ending in a draw.
Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez will make a massive fitness gamble on John Terry against Arsenal – because he believes his team lack character and self-belief in games at Stamford Bridge.
Benitez admitted after the midweek draw with Southampton that it would be “a risk” to start skipper Terry against Arsenal and one he did not intend to take.
Terry has played just half an hour of first-team football since the Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk on October 23.
But Chelsea’s dreadful home run – just one win in their last seven league games at Stamford Bridge – means Benitez will throw the captain back into action against the Gunners on Sunday, despite the danger of a recurrence of the knee problem which could endanger his season.
Benitez said: “I said I wouldn’t take a risk but you have to see your players in every training session and afterwards decide.
“On Friday we had a light session because of the the snow, and he was training with the team, doing everything. He had his specific programme and was doing well.
“If I ask him, or anyone, they would say they want to play. I prefer not to ask and decide at the end.
“It’s difficult to say what a leader is. You can say that someone might be but but the players decide who the leaders are. It’s something that happens.
“We have some good players. Some of them show more character. Others show different qualities.
“We have a group of players with quality and sometimes we miss these things. Experience doesn’t mean you are a leader. It means you have experience.”
Terry, clearly, embodies both experience and leadership, as Benitez agreed.
“John is one of the strong characters we have,” said the Spaniard. “I have already said, this is a time of transition, which means changing one or two players and bringing others in.
“We have players with experience who have to help the new players. And the new players have to realise what the Premier League means and what it means to be playing at Chelsea, competing for trophies here.
“You have to compete for everything. That is the situation in a top side.
“If you only play once a week you have more time but here there’s no time. You have to win. That’s it.
“For us to have bodies, to have people with this mentality, can help. Hopefully he will be fine and we will see a positive influence for the rest of the season in the team.”
Terry’s presence in the side – Frank Lampard and Demba Ba are likely to continue, with Fernando Torres and Ramires on the bench – should help make the pre-match mood less mutinous.
A Chelsea win would consolidate their position in third and consign Arsenal to a fight for fourth, at best, but Benitez insisted counterpart Arsene Wenger deserves respect for his achievements.
Benitez added: “Arsene is one of the best managers, if not the best manager, in England over the last few years, with what he achieved and the way they do things.
“People talk about them not winning trophies recently, but since the arrival of people with big money, the Premier League has changed a bit.
“To manage a club with common sense, to have a good manager like Arsene, used to be fine and you could achieve things. Now it’s a different world with clubs with big money.
“But to be in the middle of the table and stay there for 10 years is not my idea – I come from Real Madrid and at that club finishing second is not acceptable.”
Projected Lineups :
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole
Oscar, Mata, Hazard
Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski
Key Stats :
Looking at the statistics, they prove that Stamford Bridge is quite a happy hunting ground for Arsenal with us losing 7 times to the N5 side, winning 7 and drawing 6 since the Premier League was formed. However, in matches against Arsenal, in all competitions, the statistics are different with Chelsea having won 12 and drawn 6 of the last 22 fixtures and only losing 4 (VitalFootball)
Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez are both under ginormous amounts of pressure, Chelsea’s abysmal home form under Rafa has been met with unbelievably fantastic away form while Arsene Wenger and Arsenal just can’t seem to get it going. While the win for Chelsea would distance them from London rivals Arsenal, a win would also bring tons of happiness to Chelsea fans across the world. Benitez could use this match as a huge leap forward to gaining some more respect from Chelsea fans – but some will say he can’t that respect, because it’s been lost too many times. Nonetheless, 2-1 Chelsea.