Arsenal

Arsene Wenger Comments on Diego Costa 'Battle' Ahead of Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Arsenal's Brazilian defender Gabriel (L) and Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (2nd R) are separated by Arsenal's Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech (C) as they clash during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on September 19, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON   RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.        (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2016

Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal players to be prepared "for a battle" against Chelsea striker Diego Costa ahead of the two clubs' Premier League meeting at the Emirates on Sunday.

Costa was at the heart of a fiery reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, with the Spaniard goading Arsenal centre-back Gabriel into kicking out at him and getting sent off, before subsequently picking up a three-match ban of his own.

On that occasion the Gunners lost 2-0, with Santi Cazorla also seeing red, and Wenger has called on the referee, Mark Clattenburg, to keep things under control, while also warning his players to not lose focus, per John Cross in the Mirror:

We have to be prepared for a battle because Costa gives you a fight. After that, it's down to the referee. We have to focus on our performance. It's another game where people look at us and see how we behave. It will be an intense game—as usual in the Premier League. Overall, I think because of the qualities of the players on the pitch and what is at stake for both teams, it will be a very intense battle.

The Gunners must be classed as favourites for the north London clash—they are top of the league and Chelsea are in 14th.

However, Arsenal have a poor recent record against the Blues and have not beaten them in the league since 2011.

Equally, while Chelsea have hardly shot up the table since Guus Hiddink was appointed as manager, they have yet to lose under the Dutch manager and will likely set up to frustrate the Gunners.

Bleacher Report's Dean Jones recently named Arsenal as the favourites for the Premier League title this season following their battling 0-0 draw with Stoke City last time out:

But a defeat to Chelsea could derail their title push, not least as it would open the door for either Manchester City or Leicester City to leapfrog them into top spot.

Wenger's side should be boosted by the return of two vital players, with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez set to be included in the squad, per the ESPN FC's Ben Dinnery:

And there is no question that Arsenal have been better than Chelsea this season.

They have lost only once in the league at the Emirates—while the Blues have won just two from 10 on the road—and given the two sides' disparate league positions, it should be an easy win for the hosts.

But the Blues seem to have a knack for beating Arsenal, and Costa himself is very adept at getting under the opposition players' skins.

The hosts need to keep their cool at the Emirates if they want to pull off a potentially vital win against the defending Premier League champions.

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