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Premier League Saturday: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Stakes: Both clubs are battling for the final two Champions League places. Arsenal, in third with 64 points, sit atop the pile. Chelsea, seven points behind in sixth with a game in hand, are on the bottom. This is a “six-pointer,” meaning Chelsea could finish the match four points behind the Gunners with a win, or ten with a loss. With four matches left after this, a draw helps the Blues little.

Home is Where the Heart Is: Arsenal hosts this match. Chelsea have not been proficient on the road this year. While earning 33 points from 16 matches in the league and having a +13 goal difference at Stamford Bridge, they have won just one of their last seven away in the league and a total of 24 points from 17 matches with a +5 goal difference.

Distraction and Fatigue: Chelsea played Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday. They travel to Spain to face them again on Tuesday. The matches are a distraction. The short turnaround is a physical disadvantage, especially with an aging squad. Having faced Barcelona they could be mentally fatigued as well. Playing 90 minutes of diligent defense against Barcelona’s smothering possession game is incredibly taxing. Chelsea know they must not come out flat, but might not be able to help it.

Arteta Absence: Mikel Arteta sprained his ankle against Wigan, ending his season. That could be kind of a big deal for Arsenal. The Spaniard is no Cesc Fabregas, but his savvy, intelligence and creativity on the ball have proven essential for Arsenal. The Gunners have a 20-6-3 record in the EPL when the Spaniard has played. They’ve managed just one draw from the five matches he has missed.

Prediction: The sides grasp the importance, eye each other suspiciously and flail at each other like drunks. The pace will be frenetic, but the output will be minimal. 1-1.

[Photo via Getty]

 

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