The next chapter in one of the English Premier League’s most volatile managerial rivalries is to be written this weekend when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal visit Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Sparks often fly when the pair are obliged to share a touchline, typified by a notorious shoving match during a Chelsea-Arsenal fixture at Stamford Bridge in London two years ago.
Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in the league and has been branded a “specialist in failure” by his Portuguese nemesis, but with Arsenal six points above United, he has the upper hand.
“You know, we didn’t lose always,” Wenger said when asked about his record against Mourinho on Thursday. “We have beaten them and there were many draws as well. I think I have won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition between two managers. It’s between two clubs and two teams.”
Wenger intends to make a late check on the fitness of Alexis Sanchez, who was not due to report back from international duty with Chile until yesterday.
Arsenal will be definitely be without rightback Hector Bellerin and central midfielder Santi Cazorla, but Wenger’s selection problems pale by comparison beside Mourinho’s, amid reports the United manager could be without up to seven first-team players.
Centerbacks Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling will miss the game through injury, along with suspended top-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
There are also fitness doubts over Wayne Rooney, midfielder Marouane Fellaini, and fullbacks Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.
With today’s game taking place at lunchtime, victory for Arsenal would lift Wenger’s side to the top of the standings and leave United nine points off the pace.
Liverpool, the leaders, will look to pick up where they left off prior to the international break when they visit Southampton later today.
Juergen Klopp’s side have won seven and drawn two of their past nine league games, culminating in a 6-1 demolition of Watford last time out.
Adam Lallana is likely to miss out for Liverpool after sustaining a groin injury during England’s 2-2 international friendly draw with Spain on Tuesday, in which he scored, but Klopp is hopeful Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will both be able to feature after jetting back from international duty with Brazil.
“The Brazilian guys came back last night,” Klopp said on Thursday. “We tried everything to make it as comfortable as possible to bring them back, but I haven’t seen them or spoken to them because I hope they slept immediately and all that stuff. We will see.”
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