Wenger, Mourinho set for Old Trafford reunion
LONDON: The next chapter in one of the Premier League’s most volatile managerial rivalries will 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 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 currently 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. I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it’s not that that makes the audience. “I think it’s important that it’s a top-level game because that will be watched all over the world and for the reputation of the Premier League, it’s important that the quality of the game is good.” Wenger intends to make a late check on the fitness of Alexis Sanchez, who is not due to report back from international duty with Chile.
Sanchez scored twice for Chile in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay on Tuesday, despite Wenger warning beforehand it would be “suicidal” for him to play due to a hamstring problem.
Arsenal will be definitely be without right-back Hector Bellerin and central midfielder Santi Cazorla, who have ankle and Achilles problems respectively.
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. Centre-backs Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling will miss the game through injury, along with suspended top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There also fitness doubts over captain Wayne Rooney, midfielder Marouane Fellaini and full-backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.
With Saturday’s game taking place at lunchtime, victory for Arsenal would lift Wenger’s side to the top of the standings and leave United a yawning nine points off the pace. Liverpool, the current leaders, will look to pick up where they left off prior to the international break when they visit Southampton later today.
Jurgen Klopp’s crowd-pleasing side have won seven and drawn two of their last nine league games, culminating in a 61 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 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.
LONDON: A combination of pictures created in London yesterday show Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (L) arriving for the English League Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on October 26, 2016 and Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger (R) watching his players during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 13, 2015.