LONDON - This time last year, Chelsea were looking forward to a Premier League clash with Arsenal after a storming start to the season under their high-profile new manager.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's men were top of the table on goal difference from Liverpool, with Manchester United trailing eight points behind with a game in hand.
Arsenal proved a turning point with Robin van Persie (now injured) scoring twice in the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge on November 30. Brazilian Scolari was shown the door in February.
Sunday's big match at the Emirates Stadium sees Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea back at the top and looking even more irresistible.
United are five points adrift, and Arsenal are a further three behind with a match in hand after ending a 14-match unbeaten run with a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland last weekend.
Injury-troubled Liverpool, who play a Merseyside derby at Everton on Sunday, are seventh and fighting to stay among English soccer's big four after going out of the Champions League in midweek.
Chelsea have embarked on a series of away games that could prove the key to their season while testing the credentials of their rivals.
After Arsenal, they must travel to Manchester City.
"I really do think we are close to getting back to the invincible feeling we had three years ago," said defender John Terry.
While Arsenal need to win to put the brakes on Chelsea, Liverpool are desperate for success.
"It's important that we go to Everton on Sunday, try to get the three points and get ourselves back to the top four as soon as possible," said captain Steven Gerrard.
Tomorrow champions Manchester United travel to bottom club Portsmouth, who yesterday named former Chelsea and Israel boss Avram Grant as their new manager after parting with manager Paul Hart on Tuesday.
Tottenham Hotspur visit Aston Villa tomorrow, while Manchester City host Hull City.
City could have striker Robinho back in action for the first time since August. - Reuters