Saturday’s match between London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea will play center stage to a rare milestone. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will manage his 1,000th fixture as boss when his side takes to the pitch at Stamford Bridge.
But even that mark will be overshadowed by the sheer importance of this showdown as it relates to the title race.
Arsenal currently find themselves four points behind leaders Chelsea entering into the weekend with a game in hand. And a win, something that has been near impossible to accomplish against Jose Mourinho on his turf, would see that gap shrink to a minimal size.
Wenger has put together a record that not too many can boast of. He’s won three premier league titles (1998, 2002 and 2004) and four FA Cups (1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005). Wenger was unable to bring home the Champions League trophy, but did finish as runner-up in 2006.
One thing he has not checked off, though, is defeating Mourinho. The Portuguese manager has not lost to Wenger in 10 games.
As Mourinho was quick to point out at his press conference, it isn’t the two of them that are taking the pitch on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter,” Mourinho said. “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 against 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.”
Wenger, too, downplayed the whole situation instead focusing on the bigger picture.
“The next period is to deliver trophies and compete with everyone at the top level,” he said. “We have great players, so I’m confident we can win trophies.”
The Frenchman would love to bring home the league title to the Arsenal fan base as he heads into the final months of his current contract. So while he’ll be only the fourth manager behind Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Sir Alex Ferguson to reach the 1,000-match mark with one English club, the focus is squarely on the here and now.
And a win for either team would move that respective club a whole lot closer to lifting the Premier League Trophy.
Team news: Former Arsenal defender Ashley Cole will be absent on Saturday according to Jose Mourinho and Ramires and Willian will be serving suspensions. The Gunners will have to wait and see if Tomas Rosicky passes his fitness test as the long-term injured group of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby will not be participating.