Premier League preview
Gunners head from Milan to Wigan; Liverpool host Newcastle
PREMIER LEAGUE COVERAGE
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Arsenal’s double dream takes them from Milan to Wigan this weekend as they return to Premier League action.
Arsene Wenger’s men dumped the UEFA Champions League holders out of the competition at the San Siro, but will face a very different challenge when they travel to the JJB Stadium.
Kevin Kilbane and his team-mates may not be able to match the artistry of Kaka and co, yet the Latics are unlikely to afford the Gunners the time and space they enjoyed on the ball in Italy.
With Manchester United and Chelsea distracted by FA Cup quarter-final ties, Wenger’s men could move four points clear at the summit, while Wigan need the points in the congested battle against the drop.
The mere mention of Liverpool v Newcastle should always conjure up memories of thrilling 4-3 encounters, especially with Kevin Keegan back at the helm.
Sadly, the return of the ‘Geordie messiah’ to St James’ Park has done little to halt an alarming slide down the table, with the Magpies now just three points above the relegation places.
Only two points have been garnered from Keegan’s six league games in charge, with goals being shipped at an alarming rate.
So the prospect of facing a Liverpool side determined to press home their advantage in the battle for fourth place and boasting in-form striker Fernando Torres with successive home hat-tricks under his belt, is less than appealing for one of Anfield’s favourite sons.
Fulham, already six points from safety, are in grave danger of joining Derby in giving up the fight against the drop as they travel to Blackburn.
The omens are not good for Roy Hodgson’s side, as they stand on the brink of setting a new Premier League record for away matches without a win, their last success on the road coming in September 2006 at Newcastle.
Reading halted their miserable run of eight successive Premier League defeats with a vital victory at Middlesbrough last time out and must build on that against a Manchester City side who are fading badly.
Sunderland are only being kept out of the bottom three by their impressive home form, but their solid Stadium of Light record will be put the test on Sunday when Everton are the visitors.
And Tottenham must shake off their extended Carling Cup hangover as they welcome West Ham to White Hart Lane, with the Wembley victory over Chelsea followed by defeats to Birmingham and PSV Eindhoven.
If Fulham do not win this match they will set a new all-time Premier League record for games without an away win (31). The Cottagers have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight encounters with Blackburn. Fulham won away at Ewood Park in May 2005, but they have only won two away games since.
Liverpool have won 11 of the last 13 league games against the Magpies at Anfield and for the past two seasons this fixture has ended 2-0 to the Reds. Newcastle have lost eight and drawn three of their last 11 league outings and have failed to score in five of their last eight matches. Michael Owen has played in this fixture 10 times (once for Newcastle) and scored 13 goals (all for Liverpool).
City have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last six games with Reading and the Royals have won four of the last six meetings between the two teams. City’s last win at Reading came in their brief spell in England’s third tier in 1998-99, when goals from Shaun Goater and Terry Cooke (2) saw them triumph 3-1.
Everton inflicted Sunderland’s biggest defeat in the Premier League when they thrashed the Black Cats 7-1 at Goodison Park in November. The last three encounters between the two teams at the Stadium of Light have ended 1-0, once to Sunderland and the last two times in favour of Everton. The Toffees have won five of the last six league games against the Black Cats.
Spurs have scored 497 goals at White Hart Lane in Premier League history. West Ham’s last win at Tottenham’s home was in 1999 with goals from Ian Wright and Marc Keller in a 2-1 win. Spurs have won only one of their six London derbies this season, but they have lost just one and won six of their last 11 at White Hart Lane
Wigan have lost all five of their league games against Arsenal. The Gunners have drawn their last two league games, but are unbeaten in 12. Portsmouth are the only team to prevent Arsenal from scoring in the league this season. Wigan have kept three clean sheets in their four league matches, but have failed to score in three of their last five league fixtures.