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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Arsenal

Arsenal will hope for the worst of Sunderland’s undulating form in the Premier League when they visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger’s men are still in contention for a top-four finish this season, trailing Tottenham by four points.

However, they also have to vie with Everton for the highest European honour – a spot in the Champions League – with the Toffees one point ahead of the sixth-placed Londoners.

Sunderland, meanwhile, have been inconsistent throughout the 2012-13 campaign, winning back-to-back league games only once this season to leave them in 12th position.

Their home form of late has been rather solid, though, winning three of their past five, and only conceding to Tottenham in that run.

And after their first contest this campaign at the Emirates Stadium on the season’s opening day finished 0-0, it is not hard to see Arsenal getting frustrated again on their trip to the north-east despite heading there on the back of some promising form.

Wenger has guided the club to four consecutive unbeaten results, including a thrashing of West Ham, an FA Cup win over Brighton, a fine comeback to draw with Liverpool and a win over Stoke City.

They have taken something away from their past two league visits to Martin O’Neill’s club, including their most recent Premier League clash there, which finished 2-1 in Arsenal’s favour after Sunderland scored first.

Olivier Giroud will no doubt be keen to break the deadlock for Arsenal, as he has scored five goals in their four-match unbeaten streak, while diminutive forward Theo Walcott has four in their past five.

The only man to score from open play for Sunderland in their past four matches in all competitions was Steven Fletcher – and much of their season has been riding on the shoulders of the impressive former Wolves striker.

Fletcher is responsible for 10 of Sunderland’s 28 league goals this season, and will be key to the Black Cats’ winning hopes on the weekend.

Returning to O’Neill’s squad will be Lee Cattermole (knee) and Carlos Cuellar (hamstring), while for the Londoners, Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) and Thomas Vermaelen (ankle) are all expected to return to the matchday squad.

Thu 7 February, 2013
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