Will the gulf of experience between the Chelsea and Arsenal teams prove decisive?
This afternoon Chelsea will take on Arsenal in what for me has been the footballing fixture of the past few seasons. Good, high-quality football is guaranteed when these two teams meet and I consider there to be healthy respect between the two sets of players which helps the flow of their matches.
Until last season Arsenal had the better of these matches. But last season Chelsea played and beat Arsenal three times in the space of four months as the Gunners were still shaking off the after-effects of Vieira's departure while Chelsea's players were full of confidence in cementing their position as the new powerhouse of English football. Where before Arsenal had the psychological edge entering this match, it is now probably Chelsea that have the greater inner-confidence of gaining victory.
Chelsea are a team of seasoned dependables. There is massive experience and proven quality throughout the side. Their core players never seem to be injured. And their level of performance is consistently of a high standard. Today, aside from Petr Cech's long-term absence in goal, Chelsea will once again be able to pick their best side.
On the other hand it will be a case of Arsenal's young guns taking to the field this afternoon. Injuries to experienced, core players like Gallas, Rosicky and Henry plus a suspension for Toure will mean that Wenger has no choice but to utilise his pipeline of young talent. Arsenal will field a defence of Eboue (23), Senderos (21), Djourou (19) and Clichy (21): surely one of the most inexperienced backlines that the Gunners have ever fielded in a top division match. With Fabregas (19), Van Persie (23) and Adebayor (21) also expected to start there is no doubt that there will be a gulf of experience between the collective sides that take to the pitch at Stamford Bridge.
Add the factor of home advantage to Chelsea's greater weight of experience and I edge them as favourites for today's match. Yet having said this I consider that player-for-player Arsenal have the talent to be a match for Mourinho's men and I am again expecting a closely-fought, highly-technical, excellent football match between these two teams. Whatever the result I am sure fans of good football will enjoy this encounter.