Chelsea FC meet Arsenal FC on Sunday and Blues midfielder Florent Malouda is determined to show that last weekend's defeat by Manchester City FC was an aberration.
The champions' five-match winning start to the Premier League season, scoring 21 goals and conceding just once in the process, was brought to a shuddering halt when Carlos Tévez's strike consigned them to a 1-0 loss at the City of Manchester Stadium. It was not enough to knock Carlo Ancelotti's men off the summit and in all likelihood they could afford another defeat, against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, and still remain there. Malouda is not entertaining the idea, however.
"Manchester City were tough opposition and it was our first defeat, so we must bounce back in front of our fans," said the French international, one of several players who had been rested for the League Cup defeat by Newcastle United FC three days earlier. "Arsenal are just behind us [in the standings] and we want to increase our advantage. It's important because we lost against Man City and now we have an opportunity with a home game to get back that winning feeling."
Both sides will be buoyed by UEFA Champions League victories, Arsenal enjoying a 3-1 win at FK Partizan as Chelsea beat Olympique de Marseille 2-0 at home. Impressive, but not the world-beating form the Blues demonstrated in back-to-back 6-0 victories against West Bromwich Albion FC and Wigan Athletic FC along with a 4-0 triumph over Blackpool FC. For Malouda that impressive run raised expectations to an unrealistic level, particularly with an ever-congested fixture list.
"I think people saw our games at the start of the season and thought we were going to score four or six goals every time," said the 30-year-old, who has struck six in as many league matches this term. "We're playing a lot of games – and every game is different." That said, Malouda does not expect many surprises on Sunday. "Arsenal always play the same way – a passing game with technical quality. It will be a big challenge for us to win," he said.
Chelsea have won the last three meetings with their north London rivals, success built on firmly seizing the early initiative and then dictating the rhythm of the match. That game plan is unlikely to change. "We have to be in control and play the match at our speed," Malouda added. "We have to just focus on our game."
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