Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has downplayed the significance tonight’s crunch clash at Arsenal will have on the Premier League title race.
A third successive win at the Emirates Stadium will take the Blues one point ahead of Arsenal and level at the top of the table with Liverpool, visitors to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.
Some suggested the 6-3 loss at Manchester City showed Arsenal’s shortcomings and that they are not ready to challenge for the title.
Mourinho, who has never been beaten by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in nine meetings, insisted the result in Chelsea’s first of four games in 10 days will have little bearing on a title race but believes the festive programme could filter down the contenders.
“I don’t think it makes a big difference,” Mourinho said.
“If they lose, they will be one point behind the leaders.
“After the Christmas period three matches, plus the one on January 1, four matches after these four matches we can have a feeling. Maybe some gaps will be open, some gaps will close.
“I don’t think it will make a big difference for them. I think they will feel they are strong contenders, and I respect them as that.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts people will always question his side until they have proven themselves as Barclays Premier League champions once again.
The Gunners were knocked off the top of the table after Liverpool’s win over Cardiff on Saturday lunchtime, and were soon pushed down into third place when Manchester City won 4-2 at Fulham.
Should Chelsea win at the Emirates Stadium tonight, the Gunners who once held a five-point lead will be fourth at Christmas.
Such a fall from grace would add more fuel to the critics who have continually doubted Arsenal’s ability to last the course in the championship race, which already increased followed last weekend’s 6-3 defeat at Manchester City.
Wenger, though, feels there is not much his men can do about it but finish top of the pile come May to finally silence the doom-mongers once and for all.
Asked if people were right to question Arsenal, Wenger said: “Yes we haven’t won the league for a long time, so that is why they question us.
“It is not about nine seasons without winning a trophy, it is without winning the Premier League.”