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12 July 2024

Arsenal and Cech seek symbolic Chelsea win

By Reuters

Arsenal can take another step towards the Premier League title with a symbolic victory over champions Chelsea when they host their ailing London rivals at the Emirates on Sunday.

Victory would also take Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech closer to becoming the second player in English League soccer history to win the title with different clubs in successive seasons, after lifting his fourth league crown with Chelsea last year.

Cech made his Arsenal debut when they beat Chelsea 1-0 in the Community Shield and his campaign could finish on another high if he emulates Eric Cantona, who won titles with Leeds United in 1992 and Manchester United in 1993, the only player ever to do so.

One of the few bright spots of Chelsea's woeful campaign came in September when they beat Arsenal 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in a fractious match in which the Gunners had Gabriel Paulista and Santi Cazorla sent off.

Arsenal's season has blossomed since, however, and Chelsea's has wilted with manager Jose Mourinho sacked in December.

Arsenal lead the standings and Chelsea are 19 points adrift in 14th place with their interim coach Guus Hiddink saying last week they were not yet free of relegation worries.


Arsenal, who have several top players out injured, lead the table on goal difference from Leicester City, but they could be boosted by the return of playmaker Mesut Ozil and striker Alexis Sanchez who missed the 0-0 draw at Stoke City on Sunday.

The league leaders have been without the influential Chilean, who has scored six league goals this season, since late November after he suffered a hamstring injury.

Ozil missed Sunday's goalless draw away at Stoke City with a minor toe injury.

"The good news is that Ozil certainly will be available, and Sanchez ... the next two days will be decisive ... but I think this time he will make it to be available for selection," Wenger told reporters on Thursday.

Midfielder Francis Coquelin is back in full training ahead of schedule after hobbling off against West Bromwich Albion on Nov. 21 while striker Danny Welbeck, who has not played this season, will return to full training next week, Wenger added.

In a further boost for Arsenal, Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who like Welbeck has not played at all this campaign, will be given a run out with the under-21 side on Friday.

The Gunners, though, have little margin for error if they are to win their first title since 2004.

Leicester have confounded everyone by remaining doggedly in the title race with manager Claudio Ranieri now aiming for 79 points by the end of the season, rather than his original target of 40 which is usually needed to avoid relegation.

They will be keen to get three more when they host Stoke on Saturday after drawing 1-1 at bottom side Aston Villa last weekend.

Leicester lost 2-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur in their FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday and face another stern test of their credentials against Stoke.

Manchester City, who clinically disposed of Crystal Palace 4-0 last week, travel to West Ham United for Saturday's late match with Manuel Pellegrini's side a point behind the leading pair and able to go top with a win if Leicester draw or lose.

The top four is completed by Tottenham on 39 points and they will hope to capitalise on their Cup win and Crystal Palace's sudden loss of form when they go to Selhurst Park.

Palace, have slipped to eighth after failing to score in their last five league matches, picking up just two points.

Manchester United in fifth, who are seven points behind the leaders, can still win the title according to coach Louis van Gaal, and they will be looking to follow up last week's 1-0 win at Liverpool with another victory at home to Southampton.