Chelsea boss Antonio Conte believes Arsenal are one of the strong contenders for this season’s Premier League title.
The two London rivals meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday with the Gunners abject recent record away to their fellow top-six rivals in the back of their mind.
Nevertheless, they remain a formidable challenge, and Conte doesn’t see any reason why Arsene Wenger’s men should be ruled out regarding the championship.
“Arsenal are a big rival for the title,” he said, as reported by Sky Sports.
“If you see their squad you can understand that – they have a lot of top players.
“I don’t understand why they can’t fight for the title. They have lost only one player, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, and they have kept all of their players. They have many top players.”
“I think Arsenal is one of the six top teams in England they will they have a really good squad to fight for something important, the title for sure,” he added.
“That’s the reason why I think this is a massive game for us. When you play against Arsenal it is always a massive game.
“It’s the same when you play against (Manchester) City, Liverpool, (Manchester) United or Tottenham, there are six top teams in England.
“Anything can happen and for this reason we must pay great attention. We must fight.”
The season so far…
It’s now 13 years since Arsenal were last champions of England and they began their 2017/18 campaign with a narrow and entertaining 4-3 win over Leicester City at the Emirates.
However, they couldn’t record back-to-back wins, as they fell to a 1-0 defeat on the road at Stoke City.
Things got worse the following weekend at Anfield when a rampant Liverpool side humbled them 4-0 increasing the already intense pressure on manager Wenger.
But, they managed to return to winning ways, brushing Bournemouth aside 3-0 before making this weekend’s trip to west London.
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Chelsea news: Tottenham bigger rivals to Blues than Arsenal – Tiemoue Bakayoko
Bakayoko joined Chelsea from Monaco in the summer in a £40million deal and made his debut in the 2-1 win away to Tottenham last month.
The France international has featured in every game since and is expected to keep his place for the visit of Arsenal tomorrow (1.30pm).
And despite being in his first season at Stamford Bridge, Bakayoko is well aware of how much these London derbies mean to the Chelsea supporters.
Bakayoko told Chelsea’s official website: “I think that actually in terms of rivalries that Chelsea have, the one with Tottenham is perhaps even bigger than Arsenal.
“Having already played that match, being able to win that match, being able to bring so much happiness to our fans was really a wonderful achievement for the team.
“Now we’re looking forward to the match against Arsenal, which perhaps carries less of that rivalry.
“But it is nevertheless incredibly important and it’s absolutely vital that we work hard to achieve the right result on the pitch.
“These sorts of matches above all are really important to the fans.
“And if there’s a lot of importance that is riding on this game then it probably comes from the people associated with the club and the fans and what it means for them living in London.
“But in terms of us players, we’ll be focusing on the game. We’ve already made a good start to the season and we’re at home as well.
“So it’s not a match that we can afford to lose and our objective remains based just on what happens on the field of play.”