Chelsea, Arsenal aim to build on impressive starts

BY foxsports • September 17, 2010

After opening their Champions League campaigns with convincing wins in midweek, Chelsea and Arsenal return to English Premier League duty looking to build on impressive starts that have already seen them pull clear at the top.

Arsenal, which is two points behind Chelsea in second, follows up its 6-0 thrashing of Braga in the Champions League with a tough away match at Sunderland.

Having already scored 17 goals in their opening four league matches, Chelsea has launched the defense of its title in ominous fashion and is heavy favorite on Sunday against a Blackpool side that conceded six at Arsenal.

"We have a lot of big players and everybody can score," said in-form striker Nicolas Anelka, who scored twice against Zilina to continue his good start to the season.

"It is good for the confidence of the team because teams know everybody can score. We have started well and I hope it will continue."

Joint top scorer Didier Drogba is back from European suspension and left back Ashley Cole is set to return after being rested in midweek by Ancelotti. England midfielder Frank Lampard remains out after failing to recover full fitness after hernia surgery.

Blackpool is buoyant after upsetting Newcastle 2-0 away last weekend for a second win of the season.

Arsenal was even more impressive in the Champions League, turning on the style to hammer Portuguese side Braga with a scintillating attacking display.

The Gunners will find it harder on Saturday, though, with Sunderland boasting a superb home record which includes a 1-0 win over big-spending Manchester City in its last home game.

With Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas back to full fitness after being slowly integrated into the first team after his World Cup exploits, Arsenal look a genuine title contender this season.

"We're up there, we're second, and now we need to guard against losing more points because we'll need everything we can get at the end of the season," said Fabregas, who also scored twice in midweek.

"I'm not going to read too much into our beating both Blackburn and Bolton (this campaign) - in previous years, we might have done the same thing before collapsing against the big sides, so it's best that we just keep going, keep improving and keep making things difficult for whoever we face."

While the top two look unstoppable at present, Manchester United is going through a difficult spell ahead of a home match against fierce rival Liverpool on Sunday.

United conceded two late goals to draw 3-3 at Everton last weekend, then could not break down a stubborn Rangers defense in a 0-0 home draw in the Champions League.

"You can never be 100 percent accurate in these situations and it is a bad injury, but we are looking at the end of February, which is better than we thought on Tuesday," Ferguson said.

Already four points adrift of Chelsea, which is expected to ease past Blackpool, United will not want to fall too much further off the pace.

Ferguson made 10 changes for the Champions League match, fielding almost a reserve team against the Scottish champions, but should recall key players like Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic and Edwin van der Sar on Sunday.

Liverpool began its Europa League campaign with a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Steaua Bucharest on Thursday but has been finding results hard to come by in the Premier League, sitting 13th after four games.

Manager Roy Hodgson rested key players Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher for the European game ahead of the short trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.

In Sunday's other match, eighth-place Manchester City travels to Wigan having won just once in the league this season, despite its massive outlay on players in the summer.

On Saturday, bottom side West Ham, which is the only team without a point, will be without manager Avram Grant when it visits third-bottom Stoke. Grant will observe the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, which involves participating in 25 hours of fasting and prayer.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa hosts Bolton, Blackburn is at home to Fulham, Everton plays Newcastle and Birmingham travels to West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham, which claimed an encouraging 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen on its Champions League debut Tuesday, hosts Wolverhampton.

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