Familiar ground: Everton’s Wayne Rooney is likely to get a warm reception at Old Trafford. Picture: REUTERS
Familiar ground: Everton’s Wayne Rooney is likely to get a warm reception at Old Trafford. Picture: REUTERS

London — Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea a year ago marked the turning point in a season that finished with the Premier League title heading to Antonio Conte’s side at Stamford Bridge.

Arsene Wenger’s team inflicted a 3-0 defeat on their rivals at The Emirates that day, but Conte used the experience to change his formation and Chelsea went on a 13-match winning league run.

For Arsenal, it was to be their only victory all season against any of the teams who finished in the top four. The north London club ended fifth, missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years and thus go into Sunday’s showdown at Stamford Bridge off the back of a Thursday night match against Cologne in the Europa League.

Chelsea will have had a four-day break following their Champions League mauling of Qarabag on Tuesday.

Although the circumstances are very different from this time in 2016, when Arsenal were in the Champions League and Chelsea were not even in Europe, it is business as usual for Wenger.

"Wednesday night or Thursday night is no different for us, apart from the fact that it’s a different competition, but when you play Wednesday-Saturday it’s similar to Thursday-Sunday," the Frenchman said this week.

The pressure will be on Arsenal to avoid a third successive league defeat on the road, having already come unstuck at Stoke City and Liverpool, where they were thrashed 4-0.

Chelsea put together a three-match winning run following a shock opening-day home defeat by Burnley. After their 6-0 victory at home to woeful Azeri side Qarabag, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said they were relishing the prospect of facing the Gunners.

"Sometimes it is good to face a big team early," he said.

"[In 2016], it didn’t work out against Liverpool and Arsenal, but this season, we have already won at Tottenham. It is good to face Arsenal now.

"We are doing well. After the bad first half against Burnley … all our performances have been good. We have shown good spirit, good football and good wins most importantly of all."

The late kick-off on Sunday features Wayne Rooney’s return to Old Trafford as Everton take on league leaders Manchester United. The former England captain is sure to get a warm reception from the club where he became record goalscorer in January before returning to his boyhood team in July. Rooney has scored twice in four league appearances for the Toffees.

Ronald Koeman’s side are looking to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, while Jose Mourinho’s new-look United have yet to drop a point at home.

United’s winning start to the season was halted at Stoke last week in a 2-2 draw, meaning they top the table on 10 points ahead of rivals Manchester City on goal difference.

Pep Guardiola’s side will travel to Watford on Saturday. Marco Silva’s team is unbeaten in the first four matches of a top-flight season for the first time.

Saturday’s action begins with former England manager Roy Hodgson taking charge of Crystal Palace for the first time in their early kick-off at home to Southampton.

Reuters

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