Emmanuel Eboue fears in-form Chelsea
Emmanuel Eboue has told ESPN Soccernet that it will be "very difficult" for Arsenal to beat in-form Chelsea in Sunday's London derby, particularly with his international team-mate Didier Drogba in such impressive form this season.
A rivalry that has taken on real intensity in recent years raises its head once more at the weekend as Chelsea, five points clear at the top of the Premier League, visit Arsenal, a team that have won all 11 of their home games in all competitions this season.
While Arsenal currently lie eight points behind their capital rivals, they do have a game in hand and Arsene Wenger has been at pains to point out that the gap is not as pronounced as it first appears given the fact Chelsea have played more home matches.
But with the side from the salubrious surrounds of west London winning their past four league games, scoring 14 goals without reply, Eboue is only too aware of the threat posed by Carlo Ancelotti's talent-rich side.
"I know this team, I know Chelsea, they have some really good players and I think that this game will be very difficult for both teams," Eboue told ESPN Soccernet after Arsenal recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland last weekend to defeat Standard Liege in the Champions League.
"For me I think it is very difficult to beat Chelsea at the moment because they are very, very solid and very, very focused. But me, I believe in our team. I think it is important to play our game, play forward and to think we can do something against them.
"It was important to win on Tuesday [against Standard] to get some confidence and to give our best and show the fans. In the game against Sunderland we did our best but we were to lose. Now we have won and we will think now about the game on Sunday."
Chelsea's most apparent threat is a resurgent Drogba who, prior to sustaining a rib injury in a 1-0 win over Manchester United on November 8, had scored an impressive 12 goals in 14 games this season.
Drogba returned from injury in Wednesday's Champions League win over Porto and Eboue is wary of the danger posed by his Ivory Coast team-mate.
"When you play against a friend like this he gives his best," Eboue said. "He gives his best on the pitch and I think this season, Drogba is very strong and is in a very good place so we have to be careful about him."
Both Eboue and Drogba are expected to represent Ivory Coast in January at the African Nations Cup - a competition that is poised to wreak havoc with a number of Premier League sides as their players travel to Angola for the tournament which runs from January 10-31.
Arsenal are preparing to lose Eboue and Alex Song (Cameroon) but Chelsea will be hit harder, with Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana) and John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) expected to join Drogba in representing their countries.
The adverse impact of the African Nations Cup on European clubs has been the subject of lengthy debate but Eboue admits the players themselves are powerless to influence a situation that means they will miss a sizeable chunk of the domestic season.
"We can't do anything because we are African players," Eboue said. "We are very disappointed by that [missing club games] but we have to go and play for our country you know."