Can Arsene topple Jose again?
Cape Town - A match steeped in history - Sir Alex Ferguson v Arsene Wenger, Roy Keane v Patrick Vieira and of course ‘pizzagate’ - is what you get when Arsenal face Manchester United.
Last season, the Red Devils were unbeaten in 25 games and making a late dash for the top four. The storyline then? Wenger had not beaten Jose Mourinho in a Premier League fixture.
It changed that late May afternoon as former United starlet Danny Welbeck put the game beyond doubt after Granit Xhaka’s fortuitous opener. The curse thus broken but now it is Wenger’s side who needs the win as they attempt to keep pace in the top four.
A new twist to this soap opera like drama is the future of Mesut Ozil with the British tabloids determined to drive traffic and Ozil himself to Old Trafford.
The German playmaker is one half of Arsenal’s terrible contract rebel twins with Alexis Sanchez the other. The Chilean could well end up in Manchester next season albeit in the blue of the ‘noisy neighbours’. Wenger certainly has his few share of problems.
As hosts, Arsenal will be expected to push the tempo and this will suit Mourinho down to the ground as he looks to bob and weave in defence before asking his attacking trio - which may well see Zlatan Ibrahimovic start ahead of Romelu Lukaku - to throw a few counterattacking haymakers.
The match is still as much about Wenger and Mourinho as it is about the Gunners and the Red Devils, both of whom have gone far too long without England’s top prize. This season may already be sewn up with BET.co.za already believing Man City have done enough to win the title but neither side can avoid a slip up on Saturday.
Wenger is unlikely to make any significant changes for this clash with ‘The Special One’ similarly not expected to shelve his caution first approach. The fallout from that is that this game could be separated from a moment of brilliance and that’s where Alexis Sanchez comes into the equation. He is arguably the only player in either lineup that currently is able of unlocking any defence in the league. Yes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial continue to develop and improve but neither are the finished product. Sanchez is world class and that’s exactly the reason why he wants a change of scenery - one that comes with more silverware and a few more zeros on his pay cheque.
One goal wins this one (7.25 for Arsenal to win 1-0) and it comes from the boot of Sanchez (include the odds for first goalscorer).