Premier League – Arsenal v Newcastle United
Arsenal’s heroic-but-ultimately-unsuccessful bid to overturn a four-goal deficit against AC Milan in the Champions League has taken its toll and Arsene Wenger could have problems naming a strong line-up to face Newcastle United at the Emirates this weekend.
Theo Walcott limped out of the game against Milan while youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also withdrawn having stretched a hamstring immediately after half time. Tomas Rosicky was already carrying an injury and the Gunners’ manager could again be without Yossi Benayoun, Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby though Mikael Arteta may be available again having suffered concussion at Anfield last week.
Arsenal’s grip on the final Champions League place has tightened over the last couple of weeks after excellent wins over Liverpool and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur and it would be a real shame if injuries were to derail their recent revival but the visit of the Magpies is a third tough Premier League fixture in a row for the North London side and one they can’t afford to take lightly.
Newcastle’s own hopes of European football next season are still very much alive but they’ve only managed two points from their last three games and need to rediscover the winning formula quickly if they are not to lose further ground on the leaders. The partnership between Papiss Cisse and top scorer Demba Ba has yet to fire and trips to the capital have also proved less than fruitful so far this season as well. They conceded five at Spurs last month, for example, and were also the victims of a drubbing at Fulham in January. Held by struggling QPR earlier, a vast improvement on those performances will be needed if they are to avoid defeat at the Emirates, whatever team Arsenal are able to put out. Even though he missed a gilt-edged opportunity against Milan in midweek, Robin van Persie’s finishing is generally clinical and if things go pear-shaped for Newcastle at an early stage, the Dutch striker could easily fill his boots. Arsenal are 13/10 to overcome a one-goal deficit on the handicap and van Persie is 21/10 to score two or more goals. We will also refund all losing correct score, scorecast and first/last goalscorer singles if van Persie should score the game’s last goal.