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Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Diego Costa takes center stage

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Both managers try to deflect attention away from the Chelsea striker ahead of Sunday's rematch of the drama at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

We may have forgotten it, or at least marginalized it as the season continued to spiral out of control, but the last time Chelsea and Arsenal squared off, Diego Costa managed to make himself the true centerpiece of the occasion.  While he later received a suspension for his altercation with Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel's red card was rescinded on a ridiculous technicality (kicking out is okay now as long you don't make contact!), Chelsea did walk away with three points and bragging rights (which is far more than what we can claim from most of our other games this season).

Arsene Wenger was none too happy at the time, but he's taking the high road this time.  He probably knows that without Mourinho at the mic, Chelsea aren't likely to reciprocate any provocations through the media.

"We have to focus on our own performance and forget a little bit about Diego Costa. But we have to be prepared for a battle because Costa gives you a fight. After that, it's down to the referee."

On the day (at Stamford Bridge) we suffered because I think we were a bit unlucky with the decision of the referee. But overall on the longer distance I believe we have a very strong record on discipline in the Premier League and we want to maintain it."

"We have certainly improved our battling potential through big solidarity, through great togetherness," Wenger said. "We have more experience in the team. And one of the advantages to having experienced players is they know that sometimes it's just about battling and not only about playing well."

-Arsene Wenger; source: ESPN

I see you buttering up the referee, Arsene.  Not sure that's needed; Mark Clattenburg is many things but neither "weak" nor "naive".  On most days.  It should be noted that Wenger is indeed correct about Arsenal's discipline; they're the far and away leaders of the Premier League Fair Play table and are the only team averaging less than a yellow card per game.

Meanwhile, Hiddink downplayed the significance of Costa's re-union with Arsenal's defenders and midfielders, claiming that while he's familiar with the incident in general, broad terms, it doesn't have any specific bearing on this game.

"That's the past. I haven't seen the images."

"I cannot guarantee [Diego remains focused on football], because we're not dealing with machines, we're dealing with human beings, but when he is focusing on where he's good at, around the box, then he's of big worth."

"I don't have any complaints about his discipline."

-Guus Hiddink; source: PA

With Diego back in the goals lately, perhaps he can make an impact in a few different ways on Sunday.