Arsenal make the long trip north to take on Newcastle this evening, in what could prove to be a big banana skin in our bid to finish in the top-four.
The Gunners loss on Thursday to rivals Tottenham has busted the race for the Champions League places wide open again, cutting our four-point lead down to just one going into the final two matches of the season, but we still hold the advantage in knowing that we just need to win our remaining outings to secure our place.
While we have worries over our defence, with the availability of certain players currently unknown, there is plenty to be nervous about ahead of tonight’s kick-off. Our opponents are not ones that we could have afforded to take lightly with a full-strength squad let alone a decimated one, and I’m sure Mikel Arteta has been hard at work to prepare his team to the maximum.
Eddie Howe has been nominated for the Manager of the Year award having taken over Newcastle when they were on course for the dreaded drop down to the Championship, but with two matches to play his side find themselves nine points clear of the drop zone, and will be preparing to celebrate the fact of their safety in their final home match of the season tonight.
Their confidence could be a little shot after losing 5-0 to Manchester City last week, but can take pride from their 1-0 home loss to Liverpool in their previous outing. They also know that they won their last six at St James’s Park prior to taking on the two that are vying to be crowned Premier League champions this season.
Arsenal also have strong form prior to that most recent loss to Spurs, having won all four of their previous four matches including beating the likes of West Ham, Man United and Chelsea who are all vying for a place in Europe this term.
I can’t help but believe that the form is on our side, especially with their confidence-shattering hammering at the hands of City just last week, but the home crowd will likely make up for that in their final home outing of the campaign. Our biggest issue could well be our personnel issues, although that remains unconfirmed at this stage.
With so much at stake however, I believe that our team will have the added focus and fight needed to get over the line today, and believe we will come away with a 2-1 win, with Gabriel Martinelli putting in another performance that will give defenders nightmares.
What are your early predictions ahead of tonight’s encounter?
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Video – Mikel Arteta talks about Newcastle, injuries and the Top Four race