Arsene Wenger has a chance to ram Jose Mourinho’s words down his throat tomorrow when his Arsenal side travel to Stamford Bridge looking to seize control of the Premier League title race from Chelsea.
There would be no better way for Wenger to mark his 1,000th game in charge of the Gunners than to ruin Mourinho’s unblemished home league record as Chelsea boss, after the Portuguese labeled him a “specialist in failure” last month.
The mind games in this season’s engrossing Premier League title battle have been simmering in the background, but it is on the pitch where points are won and lost, and the outcome of tomorrow’s derby could prove pivotal come May 11.
Chelsea seemed to have a vice-like grip on the title race until last weekend’s controversial 1-0 loss at Aston Villa, while wins for chasers Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City squeezed the top of the table.
Mourinho’s side still have a four-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool, although they both have a game more to play, while fourth-placed City are six points back with three games in hand on Chelsea.
City are at home to bottom club Fulham tomorrow, while surging Liverpool will be looking for a sixth straigth win when they visit a Cardiff City side fighting for survival.
Wenger last month branded Mourinho’s comments mocking his eight-season trophy drought last month as “silly” and “disrespectful.”
“Am I afraid of failure? He is a specialist in failure. I’m not. So if one supposes he’s right and I’m afraid of failure, it’s because I don’t fail many times,” Mourinho said.
Wenger sparked the exchange when he questioned the Portuguese’s motives for saying that his Blues side were “a little horse” in the title race, while Man City were a “jaguar.”
Arsenal seemed to be slipping out of contention after back-to-back league defeats away, but a grinding 1-0 win at north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur last weekend put them back in the mix for their first title since 2003-2004, which is when Mourinho arrived in London calling himself the “Special One.”
Victory at Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho has never lost a league game, would put the Gunners within a point of the summit with a game in hand ,which would be an impressive feat given injuries to Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil.
Liverpool are on a high after their 3-0 humiliation of Manchester United last weekend and will be expected to breeze past Cardiff, who look set for relegation after only one season in the top flight.
Even without suspended captain Vincent Kompany, Man City’s defense should be able to deal with a Fulham side running out of time to leave the relegation zone.
With the top four looking locked down, the teams below them, such as Everton, Tottenham and United, are vying for the fifth and sixth spots that would put them in the UEFA Europa League next season.
Everton can leapfrog Spurs into fifth by beating relegation-threatened Swansea City tomorrow.
Seventh-placed United will be looking for redemption at West Ham United, buoyed by their 3-0 UEFA Champions League win over Olympiakos on Wednesday, which sent them into the quarter-finals.
Spurs, who had an almost impossible job trying to overturn a 3-1 deficit against SL Benfica in their Europa League last-16 tie yesterday in, host Southampton on Sunday.