Soccer Saturday pundits: Chelsea strong favourites to see off Arsenal

Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson preview Chelsea v Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, live on Sky Sports on Saturday

We asked the Soccer Saturday pundits to predict Chelsea v Arsenal and pick out their key player for the vital title showdown.

Only Phil Thompson is backing the Blues to drop points when the two sides meet live on Sky Sports 1 HD on Saturday from 11.30am, with former Gunners Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas expecting their old side to struggle.

Antonio Conte's men can move 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a ninth successive home win, having boosted their chances in midweek as Arsenal, who have lost on their last four trips to west London, slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Watford.

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Here's what the Soccer Saturday pundits are predicting...

Charlie Nicholas says: I know we thrashed them 3-0 at the Emirates but my instinct leads me to think Chelsea will do a job on us, just like they almost always seem to do at Stamford Bridge.

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They are not a side of high skill and imagination. I was reading that Diego Costa was voted man-of-the-match at Liverpool but, other than winning a soft penalty and missing it, I don't recall him doing anything. I don't remember Eden Hazard doing anything either, other than one decent pass to Willian.

They are efficient. Conte is not a genius, they went to this formation because of what happened at the Emirates. This is the old Chelsea and they'll let Arsenal have possession then hit them on break when the Gunners get desperate.

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Arsenal's Brazilian defender Gabriel (L) and Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (2nd R) are separated by Arsenal's Czech goalkeeper Petr
Image: Gabriel saw red last season after clashing with Diego Costa

Key man: It is Costa because he relishes playing against Arsenal and our defence simply cannot handle coming up against his aggression. I was hoping he would leave in January and we could have a proper title race but him staying makes me think they've got it wrapped up.

Charlie predicts: 2-0 and Costa to score first - 22/1 with Sky Bet

Matt Le Tissier says: Arsenal always have a chance but on the back of a home defeat to Watford you'd have to hold Chelsea down as strong favourites.

The title race isn't over - the fat lady hasn't started singing just yet - but she might start gargling the water if Chelsea win on Saturday.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action at Stamford Bridge
Image: Eden Hazard has scored in two of Arsenal's last three visits

Key man: Hazard is my key man on the basis that I expect him to score the winning goal. He's got that guile to unlock a game when it's tight and relishes these sort of matches.

Of course, Chelsea's defence has been very important as well and that back three has been very impressive.

Le Tiss predicts: 1-0 and Hazard to score - 30/1 with Sky Bet

Phil Thompson says: People will just think Arsenal will play like they did against Watford and they'll get battered, but football isn't like that.

They dropped points on Tuesday because they were complacent and they'll be a lot better on Saturday. Mesut Ozil will turn up and Alexis Sanchez will be out to prove he's the man.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31:  Younes Kaboul (C) of Watford celebrates scoring the opening goal with his team mate Tom Cleverley (2nd L) during the Premier
Image: Arsenal slumped to a 2-1 loss to Watford midweek

Key man: Hazard will be the key man if Gabriel plays at right-back because he was exceptionally poor the other day, but I would assume Hector Bellerin will come back in. Wenger got to half-time and knew he had a problem and that's what concerns me, that he thinks Gabriel is a better defender.

Hazard's last few games haven't been as good but the big matches, and this is a massive one, bring out the best in top players. Hazard wasn't great against Liverpool but he'll be up for it at home.

Thommo predicts: 2-2 and Hazard to score first - 70/1 with Sky Bet

Paul Merson says: Arsenal were shocking against Watford and they won't be relishing this trip to Stamford Bridge.

It's a must-win game for the Gunners after their defeat to the Hornets, and they have got to go for it against the best team in the country. That will play into Chelsea's hands.

I just can't make a case for Arsenal here. Chelsea are running away with the league and I think they'll claim a comprehensive victory.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates Arsenal's winning goal
Image: Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 23 of Arsenal's league goals

Key man: I'll go Hazard. He's the one I think will make the difference because Arsenal won't deal with him like they should, with lots of bodies around him.

Sanchez could be the one because Arsenal need him more. If Hazard doesn't play well then Chelsea still probably win but Arsenal need Sanchez to be phenomenal for them to have any chance.

But I'm expecting Chelsea to win so it has to be Hazard.

Merse predicts: 3-1 and Hazard to score first - 60/1 with Sky Bet

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