Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 22 March
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
The press might want to pile on the pressure with talk of not just Mourinho’s unbeaten run in ten meetings with Arsene Wenger but also his record 75 game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge but given this is Arsenal and there’s really no love lost here, all we really want is to get on with the job in hand without the pantomime.
Despite the usual stirring from the press, going into today’s early kick-off, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho insists “It’s not against him. It’s Chelsea against Arsenal. I didn’t play Arsenal with Inter, Madrid or Porto; just Chelsea. It’s Arsenal v Chelsea, not me against him. Records don’t play any role – a match is a match. It’s not coach against coach, it’s team against team.”
And on the opposition and their manager’s 1000 games in charge, Jose says “I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments – and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot. So I admire the manager and I admire the club.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger meanwhile on his side’s “game of the season” says “On Saturday I represent my club, I don’t represent myself, and I will behave always in respecting the values of our club, and keep my own feelings far away from that.”
Whilst on Arsenal, says “The next period is to deliver trophies and compete with everyone at the top level. We have great players, so I’m confident we can win trophies. The real quality of management is linked with consistency. The club has always supported me. Time will tell if I managed to make this club bigger than it was when I arrived, but I hope so. This club has given me a chance and I’ve turned many things down and shown my loyalty.”
For Chelsea, van Ginkel still isn’t back in contention and Ashley Cole (knee) remains out. Ramires begins a three-match ban and Willian serves his one today. Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are available again after being ineligible in Europe midweek.
For Arsenal, Mesut Ozil (hamstring), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Jack Wilshere (foot), Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby (both knee) are all on the injured list. Tomas Rosicky (ankle) faces a fitness test although Kim Kallstrom (back) could be in the squad for the first time.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard, Eto’o
ARSENAL (Possible line-up): Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla, Giroud
Arsenal 0- 0 Chelsea (23rd December 2013)
We’re unbeaten in our last four against Arsenal in the league and Jose Mourinho in particular, has never lost a game in charge of Chelsea against Arsenal in any competition, but the visitors might worry slightly less about that little fact considering they’ve not only won almost a third of their league games against us at Stamford Bridge, they’ve also outscored us in our own backyard. We do have the tightest defence in the Premier League this season though, with today’s visitors the only side to have scored less at home than us.
On current form, we come into this game off the back of defeat in the league at Villa last weekend but winning comfortably in Europe midweek, whilst Arsenal beat Spurs last time out in the league and went out of the Champions League against Bayern despite a draw during the week.