Wenger 1000 Not Out, as Mourinho’s Chelsea field strong challenge
Temptation to throw as many clichés at this fixture such as billing it the ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’ is something the headline-makers of the nationals will have to deal with. This is a game for them as much as the football purists.
Arsene Wenger’s 1000th match in charge promises fireworks. Even more so against fierce rivals Chelsea, spurred on by old adversary Jose Mourinho.
Since Arsenal last won silverware, every time these two teams have met, the Gunners have been playing for pride, with Chelsea still challenging for honours. This time, there is a lot riding on this. Both teams can still win the league. The gap is four points in Chelsea’s favour who sit top of the Barclay’s Premier League, and concede a game in hand to Arsenal.
Coral have Chelsea odds on, 10/11 for the win, while the visitors are unfancied at 3/1. With the draw (5/2), it appears the sports traders and bean counters cannot see past Jose’s blues.
Under Mourinho, Chelsea is a club in transition, attempting to adapt to a style of play that is more familiar to Wenger’s philosophy. The home side though, are hampered in their selection choices, with Brazilian pair Ramires and Willian suspended, with David Luiz and Andre Schurrle widely expected to deputise.
We take a more insightful look at key, potentially match-deciding duels between the two teams.
Eden Hazard – Bacary Sagna
Arguably Chelsea’s Player of the Season, Hazard is on fire. He is blazing trails around the pitch this campaign, and seems to have dynamite in his boots. At 8/1 to score first the Belgian represents good value. If Arsenal are to keep him quiet, Sagna will have to play to his best, though with mutiny over a new contract his mind could possibly be elsewhere. Bottom line; keep Hazard quiet, and the visitors have a good chance.
Olivier Giroud – John Terry
Reborn again under Mourinho, Terry has been a rock this season for Chelsea. Giroud will undoubtedly test him on Saturday lunchtime, and it will be an interesting physical match-up. At 7/1 to score first, with Lukas Podolski he knows that if his team are to challenge, he needs to contribute more in the way of goals.
Oscar – Mathieu Flamini
Selling Juan Mata to Manchester United, was a clear vote of confidence for Oscar from Mourinho. The Brazilian has the golden touch and work rate to boot, yet Flamini is more of a match to keep tabs on him. Like Hazard, Oscar is 8/1 to be first scorer and carries a legitimate threat from Free-kicks, as demonstrated in the FA Cup already this season.
However this match unfolds, it would not be a surprise to see Wenger still on the throne and back on the Kings Road with an Arsenal squad after another 1000 games.