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Chelsea prepare to steal Arsenal's crown

April 19, 2005 12:44 IST

The shift in soccer's balance of power from north to southwest London will be all but confirmed on Wednesday if runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea beat second-placed Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho's team, 11 points clear with only 18 left to play for, will be tantalisingly close to their first league title since 1955 if they beat the champions.

A Chelsea victory would leave them needing only one more win to secure a title that has looked destined for Stamford Bridge for most of the season.

That could come at home to their local rivals Fulham on Saturday. Arsenal do not play north London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur at Highbury until the following Monday.

Chelsea have already won this season's League Cup and are favourites to reach the Champions League final after being drawn in the last four against Liverpool, the team they beat in Cardiff to win their first major trophy under Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

Mourinho's team enjoyed a weekend off after their Champions League exertions against Bayern Munich and their outstanding captain, defender John Terry, expects to shake off a thigh injury in time for Wednesday's game.

Dutch winger Arjen Robben is also back in training.

Arsenal have a big doubt over top scorer Thierry Henry, who missed their FA Cup semi-final win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday with a groin injury.

Defender Sol Campbell is expected to return after an 11-week absence with an ankle injury. Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is doubtful (hip).

Recent history suggests Chelsea might not have it all their own way.

Chelsea have not won any of their last eight home league matches against Arsenal, their last success being a 1-0 win in September 1995.


Bolton Wanderers will jump into a Champions League qualifying spot, temporarily at least, if they beat third-from-bottom Southampton at the Reebok Stadium on Tuesday.

Fourth-placed Everton are two points clear of Bolton, who have never played in Europe, but have a tough home fixture against third-placed Manchester United on Wednesday.

Sixth-placed Liverpool, a point behind Bolton, visit Portsmouth the same evening.

The bottom two, Norwich City and Crystal Palace, will hope their respective opponents, Newcastle United and Blackburn, have not recovered from their FA Cup semi-final drubbings at the weekend.

Fourth-from-bottom West Bromwich Albion, who have a one-point safety cushion and a game in hand, visit Tottenham.

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