January 9, 2018

Chelsea v. Arsenal Preview  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea v. ArsenalChelsea boss Antonio Conte is expected to field a strong side, including playmaker Eden Hazard, for Wednesday's Carabao Cup semi-final first leg clash with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

New signing Ross Barkley is unlikely to be involved however, though Conte hailed the new recruit for settling quickly to his task following his transfer from Everton.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) night I think is very soon, very soon for him," said Conte of the England international.

"But we must be pleased because his physical condition is good, and he has started to train with us, understand our football.

"I think that we must be pleased, but he needs a bit of time to work on the physical and tactical aspects. His condition is good, very good."

Asked when Barkley would be ready for action, Conte continued: "I don't know, it's very difficult to say now.

"But at the same time I'm very positive, because the player is a good guy, he's shown great will to work, great desire to help us very soon.

"And I think it's very very positive. I'm very happy to have Ross with us for the rest of the season."

Arsenal, meanwhile, head into Wednesday night's tie at the Bridge having lost 4-2 to Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round at the City Ground on Sunday afternoon.

And with the Gunners currently sitting in sixth place in the Premier League, this could represent one of their best chances of winning silverware this season.

Team news

Hazard has shaken off a calf complaint in time for the clash with Arsenal. The Belgian forward is expected to feature having continued to train fully.

The Blues have no other injury concerns for the game.

Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi will undergo late fitness tests ahead of the visit to Chelsea in midweek.

Xhaka (groin) and Mustafi (knock) are close to recovering, but both players only have an outside chance of playing in west London.

Opta stats

Chelsea have won four of their five League Cup ties against Arsenal, including the semi-final en route to winning the trophy in 1997-98 (4-3 on aggregate).

Arsenal's only progression against Chelsea in the competition came in a fourth-round win at Highbury in 1976-77.

The Gunners have won just one of their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge in all competitions (W1 D1 L7), a 5-3 win in the Premier League in October 2011.

The Blues have progressed from four of their last five League Cup semi-finals (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2015), failing only under Rafael Benitez against Swansea in 2012-13.

This will be Arsenal's 15th appearance in the League Cup semi-finals - only Liverpool (17) have played in more.

However, no side has been knocked out at this stage more than Arsenal (7), while the Gunners have lost five of the seven finals they've played when they do get through.

Chelsea have conceded a 90th-minute goal in each of their three Carabao Cup ties this season, but have also scored twice in the last minute (vs Everton and Bournemouth).

Arsene Wenger has reached the League Cup final twice as Arsenal manager (2007 and 2011), but it remains the only domestic trophy he's not won with the Gunners.

Charlie's prediction

It was cracking 2-2 draw at the Emirates and Arsene Wenger has to pick a strong team here after making so many changes in the FA Cup, but so will Antonio Conte, which makes Chelsea favourites.

Arsenal can have a day when the front three click and they're fantastic going forward, but they are broken defensively. They have been for a while and they don't know how to fix it, so Steve Bould must start making his voice heard.

Arsene Wenger comes out and says we keep making the same mistakes and we all say, really? Is he finally starting to see the picture? His solution was a back three but that is still the same players with no idea how to defend.

I don't see too much hope for Arsenal on Wednesday and I just hope they can nick a goal to keep the tie going.

I could see Alvaro Morata making up for his missed chances and getting a brace here, while I can also see discipline issues for Arsenal given they don't even seem to want to celebrate together when they're winning.

Charlie predicts: 3-1 and Morata to score first (33/1 with Sky Bet)

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