Arsenal will host Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, February 22, 2014 (7:00 AM Pacific, 3:00 PM GMT), in a Premier League clash. Both teams arrive to the match in the need of a win, although their aims are very different. While the Gunners are in the fight for the title, the Black Cats are in the relegation zone.
Arsenal is on the second place, only one point below Chelsea, and they need to win playing at home if they want to continue fighting for the Premier League title. In the FA Cup, they defeated Liverpool by 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday and qualified to quarterfinals, where they’ll have to face Everton on March 8. In the Champions League, they lost 2-0 against Bayern Munich playing at home last Wednesday. They’ll have to work hard if they want to defeat Bayern in Munich in order to continue in that tournament.
Arsenal Team News
The German centre-back Per Mertesacker said that they have to switch off from Wednesday match and focus on the game against Sunderland: “We will switch off from the Champions League now, and then switch on again.” [source: The Independent]. Mertesacker also defended his partner Mesut Özil, who missed a penalty against Bayern and was criticized by some fans: “He has played a lot of games. But he is a massive player and we need him at his best.” [source: Mirror]
The Gunners have a great performance playing at Emirates Stadium in the Premier League: they’ve only lost one match, the first of the season against Aston Villa on August 17, and since then they’ve won 9 games and drawn 3.
For this match, midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh strain) and centre-back Thomas Vermaelen (knee) are out for sure due to injuries, and the same goes for Kieran Gibbs (buttock), who had to be substituted in the first half of the match against Bayern Munich and was confirmed to be out for the weekend by manager Arsène Wenger in press conference. The Spaniard Nacho Monreal will surely take his place in the left-back.
Sunderland Team News
On the other hand, Sunderland is on the 18th position with 24 points – the same as West Bromwich, but they have a worse goal difference than the baggies –, so they’re in the relegation zone. However, they have one match less than their direct opponents, since the last game they were supposed to play -against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium- was postponed due to the bad weather. At least, they’re in the final of the Capital One Cup after defeating Manchester United in semifinals. In the final they’ll face Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on March 2.
The black cats have a 6-game no losing streak on the road in Premier League, with 3 wins and 3 draws – they even defeated Newcastle by 3-0 in the derby at St. James Park on February 1. Their last loss playing away in the Premier League was against Stoke City on November 23. In the Capital One Cup, they lost 2-1 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on January 22, but they had won by the same result at home and they won in the penalty shoot-out.
Their coach, the Uruguayan Gus Poyet, spoke about the good performance playing away and the way the match against Arsenal can help them to prepare the Capital One Cup final: “I think there is no better game to prepare the final because the stadium is similar, Emirates and Wembley”. [Source: Poyet pre-match conference interview].
Poyet also confirmed that the Scottish Steven Fletcher has returned to train after an Achilles injury, although he’s not ready to play the entire game, and the boss surely wants to keep him for the Capital One game. However, he may start from the bench and play some minutes. The Spaniard centre-back Carlos Cuéllar is also ready to play, after a hip problem that sidelined him for three months.
Arsenal vs Sunderland Prediction
In my opinion, even when Sunderland is in the relegation zone, this game will be a tough one for the gunners. Sunderland demonstrated that they can be a hard team playing away in their last Premier League matches, as well as in Capital One Cup against United, and Arsenal players may be a bit tired and in a bad mood after the clash against Bayern Munich. My prediction is a 2-2 tie.
Arsenal vs Sunderland Television
The match will be televised on USA Network, check LiveSoccerTV for other countries.
The last match both teams played was on September 14, an Arsenal victory by 3-1 playing on the road, while the last victory of the black cats was playing at home in FA Cup, in February 2012.
Sunderland last victory against Arsenal on the road was in November 2002, a 3-2 win in League Cup at the old Highbury Stadium. Since the creation of the Premier League in 1992, Sunderland never defeated Arsenal on the road in that tournament.
Arsenal Possible Lineup