The Premier League top four race heats up on Sunday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United travel to North London to take on Unai Emery’s Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, straight after Chelsea’s home clash with Wolves.
The Red Devils occupy fourth place in the Premier League with 58 points, while the Gunners are a point and place behind.
Victory for Solskjaer’s side will give them a four-point lead over Arsenal, while a win for Emery’s men will see them leapfrog United into fourth. A draw might not do either side any good, especially if Chelsea, on 56 points with a game in hand, bag maximum points against Wolves.
Man United 39/20
Arsenal, who are 37/20 to finish in the top four, know they have a chance to leapfrog their opponents in the table with victory on Sunday. The Gunners are flying at the Emirates Stadium, going unbeaten in 14 games with 12 wins, including eight in a row. But it’s going to be a tough test for Emery’s men as Solskjaer’s side beat them 3-1 on their home ground in January in the FA Cup. Both sides’ priority this season is to finish in the top four, so Arsenal will be hoping for some payback and aim to win where it matters most.
The Gunners, who have five wins in their past seven league matches, had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Tottenham at Wembley last weekend as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his stoppage-time penalty saved. To make matters worse, Lucas Torreira was sent off minutes later for a reckless challenge on Danny Rose. Torreira’s absence will come as a huge blow for Emery, but rising star Matteo Guendouzi has a good understanding with Granit Xhaka.
This fixture is Arsenal’s last against a top-six team this season. A win over their top-four rivals in front of their fans would give them a huge confidence boost heading into a key part of the season. With Emery’s deadly strike force of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – who have scored 28 goals between them – the north London side will be confident of handing Solskjaer his first Premier League defeat.
When Solskjaer arrived at Old Trafford in mid-December to replace Jose Mourinho who was sacked after an abysmal start to the campaign, many were sceptical about the Norwegian’s interim appointment and I was one of them, pointing out his failed spell at Cardiff in 2014.
And when he took over, the expectations weren’t very high. United were the laughing stock and 11 points off the top four, so getting into the Champions League places was the last thing on anyone’s mind. Solskjaer was brought in to steady the ship and restore some pride. Fast forward to the present day and my question isn’t, “Why did they appoint him”, but now I’m asking, “Why hasn’t he been given the job on a permanent position already?” There’s no need for Mauricio Pochettino, Zinedine Zidane or Antonio Conte.
United, 11/10 to finish in the top four, are in red-hot form under Solskjaer with the baby-faced assassin yet to lose in the Premier League. From his 12 matches in charge, United have won 10 and drawn twice, both at home against Burnley and Liverpool. More importantly, the Red Devils look like the force we all know them to be. They’ve fought their way back into the top four and they comfortably beat Arsenal and Chelsea in their own backyard to progress in the FA Cup.
United are one point ahead of the Gunners going into this clash and should they come out of the match victorious, they would have a four-point lead over the north London side going into the last handful of league matches. Having beaten Arsenal 3-1 in the FA Cup at the Emirates at the start of the year, Solskjaer’s side will be confident of securing maximum points.
Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi; Aubameyang.
Man United: 4-3-3
De Gea; Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Matic, McTominay, Pogba; Martial, Rashford, Lukaku.
Prediction: Manchester United (39/20)
Both sides will be desperate for victory to boost their top four hopes. A draw wouldn’t really please either side and I think we’ll see an entertaining game of football with both sides going all out. I think Torreira will be sorely missed and I’ll back United to bag all three points. The Red Devils have won on their last two trips to the Emirates, in the FA Cup in January and in the league last season, both by 3-1 scorelines.
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