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 English 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.
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.