Chelsea and Arsenal haven’t clashed with a pair of new managers patrolling the touchline since April 1997, when the Gunners won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Twenty-one years and change on from that late-season match, and Arsenal again pay their west London nemesis a visit with a new gaffer in charge after Arsene Wenger’s two decades-plus tenure defined the club’s Premier League era. So too do Chelsea, and with the appointments of Unai Emery and his Blues counterpart Maurizio Sarri, the latest meeting between the two familiar foes may have a different look.

Injuries and suspensions

Chelsea: Cesc Fabregas has a minor knee knock and is unlikely to face his former side, while Gary Cahill’s status is pending a fitness test. Newcomer Mateo Kovacic could make his debut, though Sarri told Ben Dinnery of ESPNFC that he’s “not ready now for 90 minutes” but might be used during the last 30 minutes.

Arsenal: Left-back is swiftly becoming an area of concern. Sead Kolasinac is out for eight-to-ten weeks due to a knee issue, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been ruled out for six-to-eight weeks with a fracture in his left leg. Laurent Koscielny continues to recover from a long-term Achilles heel injury.

Projected lineups

Chelsea starting XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hazard

Arsenal starting XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Ramsey; Aubameyang

What to watch

This is the 196th meeting between the two clubs, and if recent history is any indication, Chelsea have the upper hand, with victories in five of their last six home affairs against Arsenal. The Gunners have failed to score in four of their last five visits to Stamford Bridge, tasting victory in just one of the last 13 clashes with the Blues.

Take all of those numbers and toss them out with the rubbish. Then expect the unexpected.

An attack-happy yet defensively porous side under Wenger, Arsenal appear set to turn a corner, though it will take time for both Emery and the squad to acclimate to the new regime. Conversely, Chelsea’s move from a back-three under Antonio Conte to a high-energy 4-3-3 under Sarri showed fewer growing pains in the one-sided 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town than expected.

Chelsea have talisman Eden Hazard set to start, and with Kovacic short of fitness, it’s likely Sarri will opt for the same starting XI as last week, save for the inclusion of the Belgian star over Pedro.

There’s a predicament for Emery on the other side of the halfway line. A 4-3-3 would probably help contain Chelsea’s three-man midfield, though the Spaniard is known to fancy a 4-2-3-1 with the attacking players pressing. After substitute Alexandre Lacazette looked like Arsenal’s best source for a goal against Manchester City, Emery might insert the Frenchman into the starting XI with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide, relegating Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the bench. Aubameyang is a shadow of himself when not in a central role.

The marquee matchup takes place in the midfield, with a player at the pinnacle of his craft facing off against an opponent hoping to carve a similar ball-stopping niche in England’s top flight. Arsenal have lured Lucas Torreira to north London, hoping he’ll become the Gunners’ version of N’Golo Kante, the do-everything tough-tackling attack impediment who seems to be in three places at once. Like he was employed by Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez at the 2018 World Cup, Torreira will be asked to sit in front of the back-four and shield Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis.

Prediction

For Emery, an opening-weekend visit from record-smashing City followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge provides an inescapable and unenviable task.

Based on last week’s results and the venue of Saturday’s derby, Chelsea should be the favored side. However, if Arsenal’s loss to Pep Guardiola and Co. was the sternest test the Gunners faced this year, the Blues’ facile result against the Terriers was hardly a litmus test.

Arsenal were sloppy against City, with the champions capitalizing on errors. Emery’s charges can’t afford the same mistakes against Chelsea, especially when they lose possession in midfield, where newly minted No. 6 Jorginho will look to kick-start attacks.

Including the 1-1 draw in Dublin two weeks ago, five of the last six meetings between the capital city foes have ended in a stalemate after normal time, and a draw seems like the intelligent pick in this instance. A frenetic end-to-end affair rife with talking points ends in a 2-2 score, with goals from Hazard, Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey, and former Gunner Olivier Giroud off the bench to break Arsenal hearts.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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