Arsenal will continue their quest for a Premier League title in a crunch tie with Newcastle United at St. James Park on Sunday.
It is a tough fixture. One of which Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta would have loved to avoid at this point in the season. However, you have to beat the best to win trophies.
The reverse fixture of the game between the two sides ended in a 0-0 draw at the Emirates in January but as the two managers acknowledged during the press briefings yesterday, a lot has changed and a lot of improvements recorded by the clubs.
While Arsenal are in second place after being leapfrogged by Manchester City on Wednesday, Newcastle are cementing the third spot in the league table.
A defeat to Mikel Arteta’s Gunners at St. James’ Park at the weekend would spell doom and almost end their title dreams.
The Gunners beat struggling Chelsea 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday and the argument was that Chelsea made them look very good and comfortable just like they have been generous to many other clubs this season.
Head to Head:
A win for Newcastle would mean that Eddie Howe’s side has had three consecutive Premier League home wins against Arsenal for the first time since 1996.
As mentioned earlier, the Magpies drew 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium and could avoid defeat in both top-flight meetings against the Gunners in a single season for the first time since 2010-11.
Arsenal have kept 29 clean sheets against Newcastle in the Premier League – no side has kept more against a single opponent in the competition’s history.
Newcastle have won eight of their last nine league games, including each of the last three and scored 13 goals in those three wins.
Eddie Howe’s side have remained undefeated in all nine of their Premier League games on a Sunday this season, winning six of those fixtures.
No London side has been able to defeat Newcastle in each of their 12 league games this season. They have scored a total of 27 goals and let in only seven.
For Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s title contenders were not able to win their last three away games. They drew two against Liverpool and West Ham United United and lost one against Manchester City.
The Gunners have also let in as many as eight goals across three games, one fewer than they did in their previous 14 Premier League away matches.
While many followers of the game think this would be another draw for the Gunners just like the goalless clash in January, Chelsea legend, Chris Sutton has predicted the game to end 2-1 in favour of the home side.
Arsenal needs to keep winning to maintain the pressure on Manchester City and a draw is not enough for them but this may just be too much to ask from the young Gunners.
Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey would be expected to return to the starting XI after they dropped for the victory over Chelsea.
Mikel Arteta opted for Jorginho and Leandro Trossard in their place against the struggling Blues.
William Saliba remains injured and is not expected to make the squad against Newcastle United while the Gunners are still monitoring the situation with Gabriel.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; White, Kiwior, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli.
Arsenal squad: Hein, Ramsdale, Turner; Gabriel, Holding, Kiwior, Tierney, White, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Partey, Saka, Smith Rowe, Trossard, Vieira, Xhaka; Jesus, Martinelli, Nelson and Nketiah.
For the Magpies, they will continue to monitor Allan Saint-Maximin, who returned to training after a hamstring injury.
Eddie Howe could unleash the Frenchman on Arsenal on Sunday.
But Sean Longstaff is still nursing a foot issue and is doubtful for this match.
Head coach Eddie Howe says there are also “a couple of little niggles but hopefully nothing major that will affect the team”.
Sunday 4.30pm GMT, Sky Sports
Venue: St. James’ Park
Referee: Chris Kavanagh