Jose reminds Wenger of bad times
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho stopped short of a glowing tribute in expressing his admiration for Arsene Wenger ahead of the Frenchman's 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal, which comes at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The landmark occasion arrives as Chelsea and Arsenal tussle for the Premier League title, along with Liverpool and Manchester City, and with Wenger chasing a first victory in 10 contests with Mourinho.
Wenger's 500th match was a defeat to a Chelsea side managed by Mourinho, who has not been beaten in 75 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.
"The tribute is to say that I believe that, any one of us, we would love to have the same privilege with our clubs," Mourinho said.
The Portuguese last month described Wenger as a "specialist in failure" after the Frenchman commented that anyone ruling themselves out of the title race was doing so out of a fear of falling short.
And Mourinho again spoke of Wenger's eight-and-a-half-year trophy drought.
"I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it's not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot," Mourinho added.
Mourinho insisted his personal record against Wenger was incidental as matches pit team against team, not manager against manager.
"It doesn't matter," Mourinho said. "It's not against him. It's Chelsea against Arsenal.
"I didn't even play Arsenal with Inter Milan or with Real Madrid or with Porto, I just played with Chelsea.
"It's Chelsea-Arsenal, Arsenal-Chelsea, it's not me against him.
"Records don't play any role. A match is a match. It's not coach against coach, it's team against team."
Chelsea, who beat Galatasaray to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek, will be bidding to respond following last Saturday's controversial loss to Aston Villa, when Mourinho, Ramires and Willian were sent off.
Mourinho will contest his Football Association improper conduct charge, while Ramires is banned for three matches and Willian one, with both missing the Arsenal game.
Also absent is former Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole (knee), but Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are available after being ineligible in Europe in midweek.
Meanwhile, Wenger will not let a war of words with Mourinho deflect his focus ahead of Saturday's clash.
"I would keep that [his opinion of Mourinho] for myself. Tomorrow I represent my club, I don't represent myself, and I will behave always in respecting the values of our club, and keep my own feelings far away from that," said Wenger, whose last trophy came in 2005.
Mourinho has continually used his press conferences to talk down Chelsea's title chances, describing them as a "little horse" in the championship race.
Wenger, though, is not about to take any notice of such gamesmanship, preferring instead to let Arsenal do all of their talking with a football as the FA Cup semi-finalists look to build on last weekend's north London derby win at Tottenham.
"What gives the teams advantages is performances on the pitch," Wenger said when asked if Mourinho's pre-match statements had any real impact.
"Press conferences can be for you (media) less or more boring, and I can understand you like some more than others, but the real excitement is the game on the pitch."
Wenger continued: "You cannot say they (Chelsea) are favourites or not, but they are among the teams who are fighting to win the Premier League, nobody can deny that.
"What is very interesting is you have Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal [all fighting for the title] and that has not happened for years.
"None of these four teams can say they are not going for it, that would be stupid."
Arsenal will hand a fitness test to midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who has an ankle problem.
Wenger, though, confirmed on Friday that Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi will miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury.