The Gunners may need to be perfect from here on out in order to protect their unblemished record of qualifying for the Champions League
Arsenal will look to make it three wins in a row in the Premier League when they take on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Gunners have revived their top-four hopes by beating Manchester United and Southampton and now face another stern test against Mark Hughes’ team.
Arsene Wenger’s men may need to be perfect through their final three games, however, to have any chance of reeling in Manchester City or Liverpool and qualifying for the Champions League.
|Game||Stoke City vs Arsenal|
|Date||Saturday, May 13, 2017|
|Time||17:30 GMT, 12:30 ET|
TV CHANNEL & LIVE STREAM
In the UK, the match will be available to watch live on television on Sky Sports 1 and by stream via Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports 1||Sky Go|
In the US, the match will be available to watch live on television on NBCSN and by stream via NBC Sports Live.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|NBCSN||NBC Sports Live|
SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
|Position||Stoke City players|
|Goalkeepers||Butland, Given, Grant|
|Defenders||Bardsley, Pieters, Muniesa, Johnson, Shawcross, Cameron, Martins Indi|
|Midfielders||Whelan, Adam, Imbula, Shaqiri, Sobhi, Allen|
|Forwards||Arnautovic, Diouf, Walters, Crouch, Ngoy, Bony, Berahino|
Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are long-term absentees and the only players unavailable to Hughes on Saturday.
Potential starting XI: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Muniesa; Cameron, Whelan; Shaqiri, Allen, Arnautovic; Diouf.
|Goalkeepers||Ospina, Cech, Martinez|
|Defenders||Debuchy, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Jenkinson, Holding, Mustafi|
|Midfielders||Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles|
|Forwards||Giroud, Walcott, Alexis, Welbeck, Perez|
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will sit out this match due to a hamstring problem while Laurent Koscielny (calf) is a doubt. Santi Cazorla and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, meanwhile, have been ruled out for the season.
BETTING & GAME ODDS
Arsenal are 4/5 favourites to win away from home, according to Oddschecker, with Stoke priced at 4/1 and the draw available at 16/5.
Alexis Sanchez is the 15/4 favourite to score first, with Olivier Giroud rated at 9/2 and Saido Berahino the top choice for the hosts at 9/1.
There are probably a few Arsenal fans who do not want their team to qualify for the Champions League.
The main issue, of course, is what that would mean for Arsene Wenger, who a sizeable portion of supporters would like to see replaced in the dugout next season. He will decide on his own future and not be pushed out of the door regardless, but successfully steering the Gunners into Europe’s top competition once again could persuade him to keep going.
Then there is the upside of actually entering the Champions League, a competition which has produced few moments of joy for Arsenal in recent seasons. They have not looked better than a quarter-final team for quite some time and are unlikely to improve sufficiently to change that next season.
Getting that off the schedule for a year might actually help them domestically. The Europa League, of course, is no easier in terms of fixture pile-up but Arsenal would have the squad depth to rotate their team for that competition rather than having to send their best XI out to cope with the continent’s top sides.
Those who think this way may well get their wish – the Gunners have a lot of work to do, and will need some help from either Manchester City or Liverpool, too – to make the top four. Perhaps, if that reality is allowed to sink in, more substantial change will finally hit the Emirates Stadium.