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Chelsea v Arsenal Betting

Since Arsenal are already out of the Premiership title race, there was a risk that Sunday's match against Chelsea would be missing some of its usual impact.

But Jens Lehmann was simply not going to allow that.

The Arsenal goalkeeper has fired up tensions between the two rivals this week by declaring ex-Gunners left-back Ashley Cole should be booed by his former fans when he suits up for Chelsea on Sunday.

Cole's summer transfer to West London left a bad taste in the mouths of Arsenal supporters. Initially, there were accusations of tapping-up against Chelsea, and then Cole penned an autobiography in which he said the Gunners had "betrayed" him with their offer of a new contract worth just £55,000 a week.

Surley it means Cole will be singled out for special treatment by the Arsenal faithful who take the short tube ride across London this weekend.

And Cole will get no sympathy from his former teammate Lehmann, who is no stranger to the hackles of opposing fans.

"Of course Ashley should expect criticism from supporters on Sunday. He should get criticism. That is football. It makes the game exciting," Lehmann said.

"If he did not it would have meant that he was not an important player, but he was. He was a vital member of our squad and we enjoyed some major successes with him.

"So obviously he should expect some negative emotions when he plays against Arsenal."

Lehmann, who is never far from clashing with opponents, insists he personally has nothing against Cole.

"You cannot really blame him for the decision he made," he added. "That is life. He is a nice lad and a very good player."

Lehmann can expect to have a busy afternoon. The bookies odds already favour Chelsea (priced at 1.75) on their home pitch -- where they have never lost under Jose Mourinho -- particularly as a lengthy Arsenal injury list is factored in.

The absence of talismanic striker Thierry Henry is only the beginning of Arsene Wenger's problems on Sunday. Also out is Tomas Rosicky, but the real issues are in defence where Philippe Senderos is the only fully-fit centre-half available.

Kolo Toure is suspended, William Gallas -- who joined Arsenal in the Ashley Cole deal -- is expected to sit out with a thigh problem, and youthful Johan Djourou is dealing with a hamstring injury he got in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Porto in the Champions League.

"William Gallas is a big question mark, Johan Djourou is a small question mark," Wenger declared. "All of that will be assessed Friday morning or Saturday morning at the latest.

"I am reasonably optimistic for Djourou and a little bit less for Gallas."

Such a weakened backline will be music to the ears of Chelsea's under-fire striker Andriy Shevchenko.

The Ukrainian international scored in Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League win against Levski Sofia but still needs Premiership goals if he wants to justify his £30 million transfer fee from AC Milan.

The goal against Levski should have been fitting preparation, but Shevchenko has spent the best part of the week deflecting speculation about his future.

The rumour is the decision to sign Shevchenko was made by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, not coach Jose Mourinho.

Based on that premise, speculation has circulated that Shevchenko does not feel at home in Mourinho's system and he allegedly even said he was open to a return to the San Siro.

But Shevchenko denied that statement on Thursday, insisting he wanted time to prove himself at Stamford Bridge.

"I give 100% all the time and I am committed and hungry for success with Chelsea," the 30-year-old striker said. "I have total respect for the Chelsea football club and fans as well as for football in England and the culture of the country.

"There are always good and bad moments in sport, that is normal. If that means there is opinion and criticism, I respect that."

If Shevchenko can find the net on Sunday, Chelsea barbs aimed at Lehmann will be sharper than anything aimed at Ashley Cole.

Betting on the Chelsea v Arsenal match is available at Pinnacle Sportsbook.

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