With their top 4 rivals Everton losing at St Mary’s, Arsenal can all but secure the final Champions League berth by defeating out-of-sorts Newcastle at the Emirates. Even if they have little to play for at the moment, the Magpies will try and put an end to a five-match losing run in the Premier League.
Following a nervy few weeks that saw Arsenal on the verge of FA Cup exit and outside the Premiership top 4, things are finally falling into place for the Gunners. Having won the semi-final against Wigan Athletic after penalties, Arsene Wenger’s charges will by vying Hull City for the FA Cup trophy, while they are again hot favourites for a top 4 finish. And while back to back victories over West Ham and Hull City boosted team’s Champions League hopes, Everton’s slip-ups against Crystal Palace and Southampton also helped. As a result, Arsenal sit one point clear of the Toffees, but with a game in hand, meaning a triumph over Newcastle would see them create a four-point cushion ahead of the final two games. And with team’s form improving of late, it is highly unlikely the Gunners will squander such a good opportunity, especially with their next opponents completely out of confidence following a five-match losing run. While Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere are not yet ready to return, Thomas Vermaelen is back in contention and he will be vying Nacho Monreal for a starting berth.
While the Magpies played some pretty good football in the opening exchanges, they have been utterly disappointing since the turn of the year, with 1-0 home loss to Arsenal in the final fixture in 2013 marking the start of a very poor run. Three wins in four matches in March hinted Newcastle might be able to turn things around, but they have since failed to pick up a single point from last five matches. There are no doubts Alan Pardew’s side have got more potential than they are showing, but the atmosphere in the squad appears to be at an all-time low. Club officials and players alike have been disappointed with Hatem Ben Arfa’s unprofessional behaviour, while the fact a number of key men is hoping to leave St James’ Park at the earliest opportunity is definitely not aiding team’s cause. With all this in mind, nobody is really surprised Newcastle are going through a very rough patch at the moment, and I really cannot see them shocking revived Arsenal at the Emirates. Alan Pardew has received a boost as Mathieu Debuchy, Loic Remy and Moussa Sissoko are all set to return, but Hatem Ben Arfa has reportedly been suspended by the club.
Arsenal seem to have rediscovered their form of late and they are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. Newcastle, on the other hand, are very poor on spirits after losing last five fixtures and there is a good chance they will be at least a goal behind by the half-time break.
Best Odds: 2/3