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Arsenal-Chelsea Preview


STATS European Football Writer

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Chelsea welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon in a game that could have a big impact on the makeup of the Premier League's top four.

The Blues (12-6-4) head into the game still reeling from a 2-2 draw with struggling Southampton in midweek, which saw the Saints come from two goals down to share the points. That result made it just one win in three for Rafa Benitez's side, leaving them only two points clear of Tottenham in fourth, and the Spaniard didn't hide his frustration after the game.

"I think for us we cannot be happy drawing at home," said Benitez. "I am disappointed. When you know your players and what they can do it is disappointing. We have to think how we can improve for the next game."

In a further blow for the Blues, former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola was this week confirmed as the Bayern Munich boss for next season, scuppering Roman Abramovich's plans to bring him to the Bridge. However, interim Chelsea manager Benitez refused to go into detail on the subject ahead of Sunday's game.

"It is fine for him (Guardiola) because he decides to go there," said Benitez. "My job is to get three points against Arsenal."

Visitors Arsenal (9-7-5) beat Swansea 1-0 in an FA Cup replay in midweek to boost their mood ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge, but are without a league win in January and have slipped six points off the top four - albeit with a game in hand.

"Chelsea is a big game," said midfielder Jack Wilshere, who scored the winning goal on Wednesday night. "They had a tough game on Wednesday night as well so we have to recover and get up for Sunday.

"We won there last year so we know we can do it. We have to take our game to them. We have to play our football. We know they've got great players and individual players who can change the game, but I think we have as well, so we'll have to be confident going there."

Chelsea are without Oriol Romeu (knee) for the rest of the season, while Arsenal are missing Tomas Rosicky (calf) and Mikel Arteta (calf).

Juan Mata has scored or assisted four of Chelsea's last five goals against Arsenal. Sunday's hosts have won just one of their last seven home league games and have failed to score in three of the last five at the Bridge. Frank Lampard has scored seven times in nine Premier League starts this season.

Arsenal have conceded just nine goals in 11 away games this season - a joint league low. The Gunners ended 2012 with a 7-3 win over Newcastle, but have managed just one goal in their two league games so far in 2013. Theo Walcott is the club's top-scorer with eight goals, despite starting less than half of their games. The Gunners have managed just a single win in the ten games they've been without Arteta since the midfielder joined the club - losing five and drawing four.

The Blues won 2-1 when these teams met at the Emirates in September. This fixture last season ended 5-3 to Arsenal, with the since departed Robin van Persie scoring a hat-trick.

Updated January 18, 2013

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