Chelsea vs Arsenal: Key Battles

Chelsea and Arsenal contest their Premier League derby this weekend with both teams having plenty to prove.

Football News: Arsenal vs Chelsea

Rafael Benitez would have liked to go into the crunch match on the back of a resounding win.

Instead, his charges treated him to a lacklustre draw against Southampton on Wednesday, a result that only served to stoke the fury of the capacity crowd watching at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have not won at home since their 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa last year, a run that Arsenal will look to extend.

Arsene Wenger's side managed to avoid a potentially embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of Swansea thanks to Jack Wilshere, but there is plenty of work to be done if the sixth-placed Gunners are to achieve their target of finishing in the top four.

Chelsea Predicted Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar, Hazard, Mata, Ba

Form guide: DWLWW

Arsenal Predicted Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Diaby, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud

Form guide: LDWWW takes a look at some of the match-ups that could influence the game's outcome.

Demba Ba vs Thomas Vermaelen & Laurent Koscielny

The former Newcastle frontman has made a seamless transition into the Blues starting line-up, scoring three goals in four appearances so far. Ba's form will likely convince Benitez to stick with him ahead of the woefully inconsistent Fernando Torres, with the Chelsea manager banking on the 27-year old's strength and instinct to fire his team to victory.

The task of ensuring Ba does not get his name on the score-sheet will fall to Vermaelen and Koscielny, although the Arsenal duo will not have it easy with the service provided to the Blues forward from the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar.

Despite his sending off against Manchester City, Koscielny is expected to partner skipper Vermaelen ahead of Per Mertasacker as his mobility could prove useful when dealing with Chelsea counter attacks. The Frenchman will have much to make up for in this game after leaving his team-mates in the lurch last weekend.

Juan Mata & Ramires vs Jack Wilshere & Santi Cazorla

Both clubs possess highly influential midfielders that must shine if their team is to emerge with three points. How well Mata and Ramires perform against Arsenal pairing Wilshere and Cazorla could prove pivotal.

The two creative Spaniards, Mata and Cazorla, will pull out all the tricks in their armoury to carve open the defences before them. Both are tied on seven goals apiece for the season, but Mata has proven to be the more consistent of the two, notching eight assists compared to Cazorla's four. Arsenal will look to dampen the former Valencia man's sway on the game by retaining as much possession as well.

How well the Gunners do so will depend heavily on the inspirational Wilshere. The Englishman has been Wenger's best performer in recent games and another star turn from him in midfield could swing the game in Arsenal's favour.

Chelsea's version of the energizer bunny, Ramires, will be the man standing in Wilshere's way. While team-mates like Mata, Hazard, Ba and even Torres have dominated the headlines, the Brazilian has gone about his job as their box-to-box midfielder with minimal fuss, picking up loose balls, breaking up dangerous attacks as well as contributing three goals.

Ashley Cole vs Theo Walcott

In the Gunners' encounter with City, Walcott was a largely anonymous figure, while he demonstrated a lack of composure in his team's FA Cup tie with Swansea. It would certainly not be surprising if the former Southampton player is shunted back out to the flanks to support Olivier Giroud in this game.

International colleague Cole will be there to greet Walcott in what will be a battle of two speedy Englishmen. The full-back will be instructed by Benitez to curb his attacking instincts in order to keep a close watch on Walcott, although Cole might just lead a quick counter or two given his compatriot's inconsistency when it comes to tracking back.

John Terry & David Luiz vs Olivier Giroud

With the Blues defence leaking two goals against Southampton and Branislav Ivanovic gifting Swansea the victory in the recent Capital One Cup tie, Benitez must be pleased to welcome captain John Terry back into the Chelsea rear-guard for this game.

The Englishman's return should prove to be a boost for morale, as Blues fans will know that they have a man who will lay it all on the line to protect Petr Cech's goal. Coming up directly against the well-built Giroud, Terry will be tasked with cutting out any aerial balls to the Arsenal striker from Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Former Benfica man Luiz has deputized commendably in Terry's absence, and he will likely get the nod ahead of Gary Cahill to partner the Chelsea skipper. Since the start of Benitez's era, the Brazilian is looking less and less like "a player controlled by a 10-year old on a Playstation", but his discipline and positioning will be tested by the Gunners' fluid passing.

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