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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Chelsea v Arsenal: Can Wenger celebrate milestone with a win?

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Arsene Wenger marks his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal this afternoon away at Chelsea, but will the Frenchman be celebrating with all three points come full time?

There was a time when an Arsenal v Chelsea game always resulted in a win for the Gunners. No matter what Chelsea threw at Arsenal, the Gunners always came out smelling of roses. But a late Wayne Bridge strike a decade ago in a Champions League clash changed everything. The balance of power instantly switched from north to west London.

Wenger happyHaving won just three Premier League games up until that point, Chelsea have now lost only four times to the Gunners in all competitions. Throw Mourinho into the mix and Arsenal look completely stuck, as Wenger is yet to beat his nemesis in 10 meetings. 

But everything must come to an end. Every dog has its day. So will this be the one Wenger celebrates his milestone in style?

Arsenal start the day four points behind the leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. Chelsea's shock defeat last weekend at Aston Villa has really opened the door for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City as the race for the title intensifies. The Gunners bounced back from their defeat at Stoke to see off north London rivals Spurs, but a victory over Chelsea would give their title hopes a real shot in the arm.

Chelsea haven't lost back-to-back league games all season. In fact, before the Villa result they hadn't tasted defeat since December 7 at Stoke. What a run they have been on, especially given Mourinho's lack of a clinical striker. And of course the Bridge has never experienced a league defeat under the Special One's reign. Two-and-a-half years ago though Arsenal hit Chelsea for five at the Bridge so they know what it takes to win there.

Unfortunately they will be without the influential Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilsher, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil. Chelsea themselves will be without the suspended pair of Willian and Ramires but there is enough talent at the Bridge to deal with that. 

The Gunners have won seven out of eight matches against teams from the capital this season. Chelsea were the only side to deny them a full house with a goalless draw in December. But the Blues haven't tasted defeat at home in the league since QPR stunned them 15 months ago.

Wenger v Mourinho is always a tasy clash. Mourinho may have overstepped the mark with a number of references to his counterpart down the years, but this would be the greatest way for Wenger to respond. Defeat today would put a serious dent in Chelsea's title dream and give Arsenal's double dream a real boost. 

But who will come out on top?

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Colin Illingworth



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