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Saturday, November 29, 2008


Luis Felipe Scolari has been waiting for his chance to face Arsenal since coming to the Barclays Premier League.

The Brazilian manager, who considers Arsene Wenger a close friend, believes Sunday's game will be talked about all over the world, but he'll still treat it the same as every other game.

'It is one of the big games, but in my mind when I play against Arsenal, Manchester or Everton, every club is a big game for me, because when we lose three points maybe we are out,' said Scolari.

'This is what I try to say to my players, that we are not motivated for just this game against Arsenal, we need to play every day and every game with this same motivation, and we need to try and win. There is no difference.'

Arsenal's start to the season has not been the best, and some believe their title challenge opportunities have already passed, but Scolari disagrees, and uses an example from last season to explain why.

'When I came to Chelsea I looked at the table from last season and saw when Manchester United were nine points behind, but in the second leg they became champions.

'Here in England you can never say 'I am champion' before the last game.'

So, regardless of the start our London rivals have had to 2008/09, they could still be one of our toughest opponents this season.

'It will be a very good game, I like this game and I think Arsene likes this game.

'It is the first time I play against one of the men that I like very much, because he is my friend for 10, 12 years now.

'His team play football, it is difficult to win because they play beautiful football and in these games they play better than other games.

'I looked in this Premier League and I think after tomorrow our game is the same as Arsenal against Manchester United.

'All over the world they'll write about this game and for us coaches, it is very good.'

Last season Arsenal scored twice against Chelsea in the Premier League, and both of those goals came from corners, a feat Bordeaux repeated mid-week in the Champions League.

'We played badly in the first 45 minutes against Bordeaux, but after that they didn't get one shot on goal.

'People will remember they scored a goal by a corner kick, and it is the first time my team have conceded a goal from a corner kick.

'But our team score many goals by corner kick, and this one time I need to accept it, because they are in the right position 100 times, but only one time it was wrong.'

The last week has seen speculation surround Didier Drogba, but Scolari is not concerned after working with the Ivorian on a daily basis.

'Drogba is happy. Chelsea is one of the best in the world; it gives us what we need.

'For me as a coach with the players, every minute of everyday I think he is happy and my relationship with him is very good.

'When you are injured and you come back step-by-step you need to grow your confidence, and for me he has my support everyday.'

One concern mid-week was Joe Cole's fitness, after leaving the field early against Bordeaux, but he looks to be ready for Sunday.

'When I talked to him yesterday he said he was ready, I say okay very well. Maybe he feels something, but in his mind he wants to play,' added Scolari.

Finally, Scolari had a message to the media, who misconstrued his mid-week joke about leaving for Brazil if Chelsea do not progress to the next round of the Champions League.

'Some people need to understand when I am joking, because when I say something they put different things in the newspaper.

'When I said if I do not go through in the Champions League then I will go back to Brazil, it was what I used to say when I was in Brazil, that if I do not go through in the World Cup then I will go to Kuwait, because maybe Kuwait will receive me better.

'Same here, it is my style. But do not be thinking that I am not happy in Chelsea, I am very happy and I want to stay for two years.'


Yesterday, Luiz Felipe Scolari described Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a friend. Today, he explains why.

The pair first met as a result of working in Japan, Scolari taking over at Jubilo Iwata around the time Wenger was leaving his post at Nagoya Grampus Eight to come to England, and Highbury.

Since then their paths have crossed in the professional arena only when Scolari visited the country to keep an eye on international talents in his capacity as coach of either Brazil or Portugal.

The Brazilian explains it is a shared ideology between him and his north London counterpart that brought them close.

'I came to London to look at games and afterwards discussed at his house because he invited me for dinner and we spoke about football, what I think with my team, Arsenal, and we had some ideas, same ideas about football,' he said.

'Our personality is different because I was born in Brazil, he was born in France and our families are different but some ideas about football are the same and I like his style. He is a very good friend, lose, win or draw, he is the same man every game. I like him because he is a very good coach, and a friend… I think!'

Scolari added that the friendship would continue, despite the outcome or events of tomorrow's match.

'We are opponents only for 90 minutes. Before the game we talk and discuss about the game, players, this or that. After the game he plays at Stamford Bridge, my house, I invite him to talk after the game, win, draw or lose. This is a moment with two friends. But, in the game, we are opponents,' he stressed.

In recent seasons, we have outspent the Gunners in the transfer market, but Scolari believes under his stewardship Chelsea will be brought more in line with Wenger's methods of player development.

'You need quality and Chelsea was one club that spent money three, four, five years before, but not now,' he explained, before looking at the current global financial market. 'With me, no. I only spent money on Deco.

'Arsenal have not spent money, sometimes one here or there. Arsene knows what position is better to spend money on, and now maybe is the time in the world that we need to think about money, coaches, boards, clubs, players, because it is not easy anymore. We need to think.'


Ten points ahead of Arsenal going into Sunday's Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge, Petr Cech believes we can end our rivals' title challenge with a victory.

The Gunners sit in fifth place in the league table, following consecutive defeats against Aston Villa and Manchester City, and the Chelsea goalkeeper suspects a third straight loss would leave Arsene Wenger's side with too much of a gap to close.

He insists the pressure is on Arsenal to take the three points, something they have not done at Stamford Bridge since February 2004.

Manchester United famously came from 12 points behind to catch Newcastle in 1995/96, while Wenger led his men from nine points back against United in 1997/98, but such instances are the exception rather than the rule.

'For them it is a must not lose game, if they lose this game they are out of the title race completely,' said the 26-year-old. 'Maybe it is even a must win game, because if they don't win it is still 10 points, still a big gap.

'But, I would say must not lose because if it is 13 points it is too far, and I think that is too far. It is also a big game for us, because if we can win we can cut out one of our title rivals.'

With two similar playing styles coming head to head, Cech anticipates a game easy on the eye, with neither side stepping out to play for a draw, as we saw when Newcastle were our guests last weekend.

'I think both sides have the same characteristics. Both sides want to play with the ball, both teams want to entertain. That's why I think it could be a really interesting game for everyone, including the neutral to watch,' Cech said, before pointing out one advantage for the Blues.

'I think they always played like that. You can see they don't have the squad for people to defend, that's why they are trying to use their own strengths, the passing game and the movement, and that's why they play the way they have done the last few years.

'At times they play beautiful football but sometimes you have to know how to win the game in a different way, and that I think is the difference between us and them. When you have the type of game where you don't manage to move your opponent with the football and you need to be physical and fight, this is what they are missing.'

Wenger has sought to readdress the mood in the dressing room at the Emirates in recent weeks by appointing Cesc Fabregas as the new captain. The Czech stopper also believes that the north London club has enough character to cancel out the Spaniard's relative inexperience.

'I think they have enough experienced players there, they bough Silvestre, they have Gallas, Toure, it is up to them to manage it, and Almunia is over 30 too, he has been there for a long time.

'They have enough players there to lead, now the question is, because we can't see what is happening inside, whether they can play like a team.'

Ballack warns of danger from wounded Gunners

Michael Ballack insists Arsenal will represent a real danger when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as the dressing room turmoil sparked by defender William Gallas will give them added desire to beat the Blues.

The France international was stripped of the captaincy by coach Arsene Wenger after publicly claiming all was not well within the Arsenal camp and the Gunners went on to lose 3-0 against Manchester City last weekend.

A win for Chelsea would put them 13 points clear of the Gunners and effectively end their opponents' title hopes for another season, but Germany midfielder Ballack warned the recent events at the Emirates Stadium would make their London rivals a real threat on Sunday.

''We hope we can beat them as it would be a lot for Arsenal to come back,'' he said. ''Arsenal have other problems now but such teams are very dangerous at these moments.

''Because they have problems in the team, they are dangerous and we have to be aware especially after Wednesday's game against Bordeaux.

''If you are on top of the league it is always a little bit different. They have to win to close the gap. We are on top and they are 10 points behind us. They have to win as well. The team has a target to be champions after finishing second twice but everyone is hungry and the focus is there.''

Meanwhile, Luiz Felipe Scolari insists that Arsenal will continue to be a title threat even if Chelsea beat them on Sunday.

''Last season Chelsea were nine points behind United at the halfway point and even if you're 15 points clear with five games to go, you're not champions,'' said Scolari. ''You're only champions at the end of the last game. This is the first time I'll have played against Wenger - he's been my friend for 10 or 12 years now.

''I met him for the first time in Japan and we are big friends. I like him as a coach. If I chose five coaches in the world as the best, he'd be one of the five.

''His team plays football, so it's difficult to win. They play beautiful football. I watched their game against Manchester United and it was one of the best games in the Premier League. This game against Chelsea will be like that as well.

''This is one of the big games but we are not motivated just for a game against Arsenal or Tottenham. We need to play every game with the same motivation. We need to try to win.''

Scolari will go into the game without the services of the suspended and much-troubled striker Didier Drogba.

He will sit out the second match of his three-game ban with the dust refusing to settle on his alleged meeting with Inter Milan's sporting director Marco Branca last Monday night.

But Scolari admitted he had not spoken to the Ivorian striker about his alleged attendance at the meeting because he had been focused on the Arsenal game.

However, Scolari is convinced that Drogba is 100% committed to Chelsea despite the recent speculation over his future.

''I think Didier is happy,'' said Scolari. ''My relationship with him is very good. Very good. All I know is that he can't play against Arsenal. I have to be thinking about the Arsenal game, not what might happen in 2010 or 2011.

''I'm not thinking about Juliano Belletti, Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho and Franco Di Santo because none of them can play. Drogba has had four months of injury, but he's training now. Now it's step by step at Chelsea. I'll try to play him when he's back from suspension.

''For me, he has my support every day. Injured or not injured. I'm sure he's 100% committed to the club.''

Wenger demands belief from Gunners

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal must maintain the belief they can win at rivals Chelsea and still finish top come May.

The Gunners head to Stamford Bridge 10 points off the pace following five defeats already, and another at the hands of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side would all but end dreams of a first championship since the Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004.

However, Arsenal are now refocused after beating Dynamo Kiev to secure safe passage into the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek and restoring calm under new captain Cesc Fabregas following a turbulent end to William Gallas' reign as skipper.

Wenger, though, accepts the Gunners now have to reproduce their form in "direct confrontations" against their title rivals as they look to build on the home win over Manchester United - their last victory in the Premier League.

"We want to get back into it and the only way to get back into it is to win the game on Sunday," declared the Arsenal boss.

"We know that direct confrontations with top teams become vital when you are in our position.

"I believe seeing the other teams play, we know we can beat them and that is the only way to get back into it."

Wenger accepted: "We are written off. You cannot say when you are 10 points behind that we are favourites to win the championship, but you can say as well the only way we can get back into it is to believe we can.

"That is why we want to go into this game on Sunday by believing we can beat them because we know we can. That is all you want your players to do."

Wenger maintains when his men are on their game, then Arsenal can prove a match for any side.

"There is no team that is not vulnerable, none in the world," the French coach observed.

"First of all we have to go with extreme desire and express our strong points and not hide.

"We can play and win everywhere in the world and we have not to consider too much who we play against.

"We know Chelsea are a great side with great players - but at the end of the day, you beat them if you play at your best."

Wenger accepts Arsenal's long-established position within the top four is no longer guaranteed, with the likes of Aston Villa currently one point ahead of them and surprise package Hull hot on their heels. However, he feels the title race is nevertheless still wide open.

"It is not completely sure this year because none of the teams I see look to be really dominating this league," said Wenger.

"Everybody can drop points and when the team drop points at home that means it is open for everybody."

Deposed skipper Gallas will return to his former club on Sunday, and Wenger backed the defender to weather any potential stormy reception.

"What gets you through everything is your focus on what you love the most - to win the game," he said.

"When you are on the football pitch, no matter what people say, you do not even hear it.

"I believe that a player sometimes will not know that it rained after the game because he is so focused on the game and you forget everything around you."

Despite their troubles in Europe where Chelsea, last season's runners-up, are not yet sure of a place in the knockout stages, Wenger has been impressed by the impact of Brazilian coach Scolari.

"I have known him for a long time and I believe he has done well," said the Arsenal boss.

"He has a big experience and football everywhere is the same - you want to win your games and he has dealt quite well with the problems he faces here."