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Tonight's the night - 06/04/2004

Tonight's the night
Time to tinker?
   William Gallas
   John Terry
   Mario Melchiot
   Thierry Henry
   Hernan Crespo
   Adrian Mutu
   Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink
   Eidur Gudjohnsen
   Claudio Ranieri

We all know that Chelsea haven't enjoyed playing against Arsenal recently, but tonight the Blues will pull out all the stops to end what is becoming a terrible record against their London neighbours. The 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge was generally seen as a positive result for Arsenal, but I firmly believe the tie is far from over.

Last season Arsenal were doing very well but then fell away at around this time of the year. With the cup exit to Man Utd last week I just wonder if there's a psychological chink in the Arsenal armour. Much has been said regarding Arsenal's team spirit and Arsene Wenger has come out publiclay and stated that they won't crack, but then again, you wouldn't expect him to say otherwise! If the FA Cup defeat is praying on their minds, Chelsea are more than capable of taking advantage.

It's important that Chelsea don't allow Henry to play, and in Gallas they have a player who is capable of nullifying Henry's game. If Gallas is played at right back he has the pace to counteract his compatriots runs down the left channel, but with no Desailly (suspension), Ranieri may stick with Gallas as a central partner for John Terry and leave Melchiot at right back. I'm a fan of Robert Huth and I'd be inclined to partner him with Terry - leaving Gallas free to take on Henry. Having said that, I'm not sure whether Ranieri will be prepared to tinker to that degree.

Up front I can't see Jimmy being left out, his form is excellent at present and his partnership with Gudjohnsen looks potent. Mutu seems to be lacking in confidence when he sees the posts - although his all round game is still strong. Crespo is a little stop-start, injury niggles seem to have hampered him but when he plays he has an excellent goals per game ratio.

Both teams has some wonderful players, but who will play to their potential? It'll come down to individual performances and I can't gurantee a Chelsea a win, but I'm convinced this will be an entralling tie that'll keep even the neutrals glued to their tv's.

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