Sun, Jan 20, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Gunners hoping to heap further home sickness on Chelsea

AFP, LONDON

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can exploit the uncomfortable relationship between Rafael Benitez and Chelsea’s supporters when the Gunners head to Stamford Bridge for today’s crucial London derby.

Chelsea interim boss Benitez, already a hate figure at the Bridge following his time with rivals Liverpool, has been unable to win over his club’s fans since arriving as successor to the popular Roberto Di Matteo in November.

Their stormy relationship hit a new low on Wednesday when the Blues squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw against Southampton, a result that continued Chelsea’s miserable form at the Bridge this season.

Chelsea have won just one of their last seven home league matches. That sole success was an 8-0 win over Aston Villa under Benitez’s guidance, but the Spaniard has also overseen embarrassing defeats against QPR and Swansea.

In contrast, the Blues have chalked up six wins on the road during Benitez’s reign, a pattern that suggests the pressure of playing in the current toxic atmosphere at the Bridge is affecting Chelsea’s players.

Wenger hopes Chelsea’s home sickness makes this the perfect time to travel to west London.

With Arsenal six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who host Manchester United today, and eight adrift of third-placed Chelsea, a victory would be a major boost to Wenger’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

“The confidence of the crowd in the team plays a big part, but let’s not hope on any weakness of Chelsea, let’s just focus on our strength,” Wenger said.

“You want to go there and be at your best, that is all you can do because you never know how your opponent will turn up,” the Frenchman said.

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