Arsenal will look to continue their hunt for top four when they welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Gunners will be high on confidence after winning 1-0 at Napoli, thereby progressing into the UEFA Europa League semifinals. Spanish side Valencia awaits them but Unai Emery is a master of that tournament, having won it thrice with Sevilla.
Thus, the London side have more than one way to secure Champions League qualification for next season. If they beat Valencia and Chelsea or Eintracht Frankfurt in the finals, they qualify for Europe’s premier competition directly.
Now, there is a lot of chance involved in that case and the Gunners would prefer to have the comfort of UCL qualification by finishing in the top four, just to be safe. They are currently 4th in the PL table, with 66 points from 33 games and a point behind local rivals Tottenham in third.
Chelsea are level on points but have played a game more while Manchester United are two points behind, having played the same number of games. Thus finishing in the top four requires all the 4 teams to win every possible game and a home game against Palace offers Emery’s side a great opportunity to pick all 3 points.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace’s season looks to be over as they have nothing much to play for. Roy Hodgson’s men are currently in 13th place with 39 points, a healthy 8-point lead over Cardiff in 18th.
The Eagles play Everton and Bournemouth with an away fixture at Cardiff sandwiched in between after the Arsenal game. Thus, they have decent fixtures to not be bothered about relegation.
They are also 8 points behind Leicester in seventh, making it highly unlikely they can try to finish as the best of the rest. Palace are also out of the FA Cup, leaving them to start next season’s preparations in terms of personnel and tactics in the remaining games.
Coming to team news, Sokratis serves the final game of his suspension for accumulating 10 yellow cards and therefore, misses out. Aaron Ramsey picked up a muscle injury in the Europa League win on Thursday and will be out for a few weeks.
Denis Suarez and Granit Xhaka will be assessed before the game while Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Danny Welbeck are long-term absentees for Unai Emery’s side.
Centre-back duo Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins will once again miss out for the Eagles while Jeffrey Schlupp is a doubt for the trip to the Emirates.
In terms of form, Arsenal have won 5 of their last 6 games across all competitions with a 1-0 loss to Everton a rare blip in their push for top four and Europa League success. Palace, on the other hand, have lost 3 of their last 5 PL games, and are in mixed form at the moment.
Further, Arsenal have won 10 consecutive home games in the league, they will look to set a club-record by winning 11 in a row. Also, the Gunners have let in a solitary goal in their last 7 games across all competitions. This should make them favourites against a Palace side who have only scored two goals from open play in their previous six games.
Finally, the reverse fixture ended in a 2-2 draw but the Gunners have scored atleast 2 goals in their previous 8 home matches and have won 5 of their last 6 games against Palace in all competitions.
Thus, Arsenal are well-placed to pick up a comfortable home win on Sunday.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Crystal Palace XI: Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Dann, Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic, Kouyate; Townsend, Zaha, Batshuayi