OK, so whatever happens tonight at the Emirates won't decide the destination of this season's Premier League title, but the match between Arsenal and Chelsea is important as it could provide momentum for the rest of the season - a season in which both clubs are under pressure to deliver trophies.
One of the surprise teams of the season so far, Arsenal have silenced many of the doubters and have been top of the league for much of the season. However Arsenal have had mixed results against some for their top domestic rivals (P5, W2, D1, L2), and are going through a relatively tough patch - losing two and drawing one of their last three games in all competitions.
Arsenal were knocked out the League Cup by Chelsea, have a tough Champions League knock-tie against holders Bayern Munich coming in February, and face Tottenham in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup next month. Arsenal don't want to be going into these games in a downward spiral (top a week ago, Arsenal could be fourth if they lose tonight), as a trophy of some kind this season appears to be a must (and, no, Mr Wenger, fourth place in the Premier League doesn't count as a trophy).
Chelsea, too, have had their problems this season. Fifth in the Premier League at present, Chelsea have already lost to Everton, Newcastle and Stoke, and rode their luck in games against Sunderland and WBA.
Despite manager Jose Mourihno claiming that he could already 'smell' the chance to win the first trophy of his second spell as manager, his team still lost to Sunderland in the quarter-final of the League Cup last week. A loss at the Emirates tonight would mean a five point gap would open up behind Arsenal, and the pressure is somewhat back on the Special One.
In Europe, however, Chelsea have a much easier tie than Arsenal (at least on paper) - a two-legger against Galatasaray, and a visit to in-form Derby in the FA Cup should be a winnable tie (although maybe after a replay).
Tonight's tie is a mouth-watering prospect (even for the neutral), but the game is likely to be tight and end in stalemate (these kind of high-profile games often do). In truth, although a draw won't do either team much good, it won't do any harm either. Both will be able to claim victory of a kind - Chelsea a vital away point against a major rival, and Arsenal for steadying the ship after the Manchester City debacle.
image: © michael hilton