Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will hope to make it 13th time lucky against Jose Mourinho this weekend as his side attempt to delay Chelsea’s coronation as Premier League champions.
Wenger has never prevailed against Mourinho in 12 attempts and even if he redresses that statistic at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, it is unlikely to prevent Chelsea from claiming the title.
Having recorded an efficient 1-0 win over third-place Manchester United last weekend, Chelsea are 10 points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table with six games remaining.
Victory on Sunday would leave them needing three points from next Wednesday’s trip to Leicester City, currently embroiled in a relegation battle, to claim a first league crown since 2010.
But while the championship seems destined for Stamford Bridge, Arsenal have drawn encouragement from a run of nine consecutive wins, including an FA Cup semi-final defeat of Reading that took the holders into the final.
Sunday’s derby will see Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas return to the club where he previously spent eight years — including three as captain — and Wenger hopes he will be spared a hostile reception.
“I want every player to be respected, and Cesc Fabregas when he comes to the Emirates on Sunday to be respected like he deserves,” said the Frenchman, who clashed with Mourinho on the touchline in October’s reverse fixture.
Centre-back Per Mertesacker has a “50-50” chance of playing, according to Wenger, after injuring his ankle in the 2-1 victory over Reading at Wembley.
Midfielders Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both back in training after injury lay-offs, but neither is ready to return to first-team action.
Chelsea, meanwhile, hope to be able to call upon French striker Loic Remy, who has missed their last two games due to a calf complaint.
Diego Costa is likely to remain sidelined with a hamstring problem, while veteran Didier Drogba has hurt his ankle.
Eden Hazard netted Chelsea’s winner against United — his 18th goal of the season — and is hotly tipped for honours in Sunday’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards.
“He is flying. In my opinion it’s been the best season of his career,” team-mate Branislav Ivanovic told the Chelsea website.
“He’s the guy who, when you pass him the ball, you just have to leave him alone. He will do everything. He’s something different.”
Hazard’s strike ended United’s six-game winning run and saw their lead over fourth-place Manchester City trimmed to a point as the champions won 2-0 at home to West Ham United.
City can provisionally climb above both Arsenal and United by winning at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, but Tim Sherwood’s side are in buoyant mood after sinking Liverpool to reach the FA Cup final.
United travel to Everton on Sunday, a year on from a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park that preceded David Moyes’s dismissal as manager.
Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish are fading fast, with Manchester City seven points above them in the standings, albeit having played a game more.
But news of Jordan Henderson’s new long-term contract has alleviated some of the gloom around Anfield ahead of Saturday’s game at West Bromwich Albion.
Barring a collapse by City, Liverpool look set for a three-way tussle for the two Europa League slots with Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton, who face off at St Mary’s.
It will be the first time Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino has returned to Southampton since leaving the club last year and he is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.
“We stabilised the club in the Premier League and top 10,” said the Argentine. “I’m very happy it was good for Southampton because I love the people of Southampton and the players.”
A rousing sequence of three consecutive wins has taken Leicester to the brink of safety ahead of a crunch clash with bottom club Burnley at Turf Moor.
Only goal difference is currently keeping Leicester (-17) below Hull City (-16), who visit Crystal Palace, but Burnley are just two points back, level with second-bottom Queens Park Rangers, who host West Ham.