Leboeuf: Chelsea won’t win at the Emirates
The Blues are on the cusp of claiming their first Barclays Premier League trophy since 2006, after pivotal victories against Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City in recent weeks.
Leading nearest challengers Arsenal by virtue of a massive 10-point advantage, Jose Mourinho’s men need just six points from their last six games to cross the finish line victorious.
The two London clubs lock horns on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners looking to delay their rivals’ coronation for as long as possible.
Arsene Wenger’s side has certainly been in blistering form since the turn of the year, winning 11 out of their 13 Premier League games so far.
The Gunners have also replicated last season’s run to the FA Cup final – fuelling Leboeuf’s belief that they will be able to nick a result off the league leaders.
“It’s always tough playing against a big team like Arsenal and we’ve got to respect that,” he told FourFourTwo at the Courts Megastore in Tampines on Saturday afternoon.
“I think that Chelsea will still win the league, but they will have to be patient. I’ll be happy if they win this game, but it’s not going to be so easy especially away from home.
“I see a draw between two big teams and it would be a good point for them [Chelsea] to get closer to the title.”
It will be yet another match-up between Mourinho and Wenger, with no love lost between the two since the former’s first spell with the Blues from 2004 to 2007.
The duo were involved in an altercation during their teams’ earlier encounter at Stamford Bridge last October, a match which ended up with the Blues running out 2-0 winners.
Wenger has also yet to defeat Mourinho in their last 12 duels, a factor Leboeuf believes should provide more motivation for the Gunners to topple the Blues.
“As we call it in France, sometimes you just have that black beast,” said the 47-year-old.
“Every time you play against that team or that coach, you cannot win and you cannot explain why.
“It’s like how Chelsea are always beating Spurs [Tottenham Hotspur]. That’s life, and it can get on your nerves. You end up asking yourself what’s wrong and why I can’t win against that team or that coach.
“But while these statistics are good, they don’t mean everything. One day, Wenger is going to win against Mourinho, but hopefully the later the better!”
The return of Fabregas
Another sub-plot of this game is the return of former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to the Emirates for the first time since his move to the Blues.
Reportedly quoted in 2010 as saying “if I ever wear a Chelsea shirt, you have permission to kill me”, the 27-year-old infuriated his former fans by joining the Blues in the off-season from Barcelona.
However, Leboeuf wishes to see Fabregas being given a warm reception by the fans who used to idolise him, similar to how the Chelsea fans embraced Juan Mata when the latter returned to Stamford Bridge with Manchester United last weekend.
“That [a similar reception] will be nice to see,” said the footballer-turned-actor.
“I can understand how the Arsenal fans feel because he plays for the enemy now, but I think he has played great seasons for the Gunners in the past, and they always have to remember what the player previously gave to them.
“Of course it would have been better for them if Fabregas had stayed, but that’s football and life. Hopefully he’ll get a good reception tomorrow.”
Leboeuf made nearly 200 appearances for Chelsea between 1996 to 2001 and played in a number of London derbies, with the 3-3 draw at Highbury in the 1996-97season still fresh in his memory.
“I remember that 3-3 draw there in my first season with the club,” he recalled.
“I scored an early penalty and we were leading 1-0, but I didn’t finish the game because I got injured. Wisey [Dennis Wise] ended up scoring in the last minute to secure us a draw, which was a good result because Arsenal was a better team than us at that time.
“The atmosphere was fantastic and I’ll always remember that game.”
Frank Leboeuf was in Singapore on the invitation of local electronic and furniture retailers Courts, as part of their celebrations for Singapore’s 50th birthday.
Main image: Courts Singapore