Arsenal hopes rest on second part of three-act drama

April 4th, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by admin  

(Premier League Preview)
London, April 4 (DPA) After the first part of their triple-header against Liverpool finished in a draw Wednesday, Arsenal must go one better if they are to maintain their slim chances of winning the Premier League football title when they face Rafa Benotez’s side again Saturday. The teams were paired in the Champions League quarter-final, the two legs straddling their scheduled league meeting, setting up three successive clashes between two of England’s traditional giants.

Arsenal dominated possession in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, but Liverpool held them to a 1-1 draw, setting up a fascinating second leg next Tuesday at Anfield.

But Saturday, attentions will return to the league when they meet again at the Emirates Stadium.

“I don’t think the game will have much bearing on Tuesday,” said Benitez. “Different competition, different stadium. They’re different.”

That may be a tacit admission that, with Liverpool already out of contention in the title race, he will take the opportunity to rest key players ahead of the second leg.

Arsenal will almost certainly be without Robin van Persie who was substituted at half-time Wednesday with a thigh strain.

A victory for Arsenal would lift them - at least for 24 hours - to within three points of leaders Manchester United, who travel to Middlesbrough Sunday.

United are buoyed by their immensely impressive 2-0 win away to Roma in their Champions League quarter-final Tuesday.

“I think we’ve had a really good season so far and I hope it ends well, too,” manager Alex Ferguson said.

“The consistency of the team and the maturity of the team has shown through in the last few weeks and has really come to a peak.”

They do not have a great record on Teesside, though, having lost there three times in the past six years.

Second-placed Chelsea, who are five points adrift of United, travel to Manchester City Saturday. City have the best home record outside the top four, but have won just twice in the league since beating Newcastle Jan 2.

At the bottom, Fulham will be hoping to close the six-point gap that separates them from safety as they face Sunderland, who have won just once away all season.

Bolton, two points above them, travel to Aston Villa, whose season is grinding to a halt.

Newcastle could all but secure their survival with victory at home to Reading, while Wigan manager Steve Bruce faces his former team as Birmingham travel for a crucial game at the JJB.

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