Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
Arsenal host Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon knowing that anything other than victory could see them surrender the initiative in a fiercely-competitive top-four race.
Only goal difference is currently keeping the Gunners above the dotted line, and they take on a Crystal Palace side that needs just a draw to reach the 40-point mark.
It has not all been plain-sailing for Arsenal in the post-Arsene Wenger era so far, but as things stand Unai Emery is on course for a successful first season at the helm.
Charged with getting the Gunners back into the Premier League, Emery still has two routes open to that goal having confirmed their place in the semi-finals of the Europa League with victory at Napoli in midweek.
Emery has an incredible record in the competition and Arsenal must therefore be regarded as one of the favourites from the four remaining teams, but their best hope of getting back to the top-tier European competition is still on the domestic front.
Arsenal currently sit fourth in the Premier League table, one point behind Tottenham Hotspur and only above fifth-placed Chelsea on goal difference, with Manchester United a further two points behind.
Chelsea have played a game more than the other three teams in the equation, though, and Arsenal seem to have hit form in timely fashion having lost just one of their last eight league outings.
It is their home form which has propelled them into a position of control, with only Manchester City and Liverpool having picked up more points in front of their own fans this season and Arsenal currently on a run of 10 successive league wins at the Emirates – a streak that stretches back to November.
Arsenal have never won 11 consecutive home top-flight games inside a single season, but they will be big favourites to make that slice of club history today considering that they have won 30 of their last 31 Emirates league outings against teams outside the established top six – the exception coming against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November.
This weekend may not prove to be a problem, then, but already some fans may let their focus drift to Wednesday’s return fixture against Wolves and the trip to Leicester next Monday – both difficult games against top-half opposition which crucially come away from home, where Arsenal have had so many issues this season.
Indeed, the Gunners have picked up twice as many points at home as they have on the road this season – a league-high disparity of 22 points – so they will need to improve that away form significantly if they are to end the season in perfect fashion, which is the only way to guarantee a top-four finish.
Should they manage that then they will break the 80-point barrier for the first time since 2007-08, and they have already surpassed last season’s tally with five games still to play.
Those final five games – coupled with up to three in the Europa League – will determine whether Emery’s first season in charge is a success or failure, but regardless of whether they make it into the Champions League next term there certainly does seem to have been progress at the Emirates.
Arsenal possible XI: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Crystal Palace possible XI: Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Dann, Van Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Kouyate, Zaha; Batshuayi.