Top of the table with 14 games to go, Arsenal travel to Liverpool this weekend for a match that could go a long way to determining if they can maintain their Premier League title challenge.
Despite the advances of Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal have been at the top for most of the season as they chase their first trophy since 2005.
Arsene Wenger’s side regained the lead in the title race last weekend as Chelsea upset Manchester City at Eastlands Monday, in more chopping and changing at the top in a hugely unpredictable season.
And now they face a Liverpool side in fourth place and battling for a Champions League spot for the first time in four seasons.
“It is never as simple as everyone predicts it,” Wenger said this week. “I said a long time ago that nobody will be absolutely above (the rest). It will be down to consistency.
“This is the period, January, February, March, where every game is a battle for everybody because everybody fights for something. You just want to win the games.” Liverpool lost twice at Anfield earlier in the season but are unbeaten there since September 21, winning eight of nine games and scoring 31 goals in the process.
At the other end, they have shipped just seven goals at home in that time and defender Martin Skrtel believes they can upset the leaders.
“I am confident we can beat Arsenal because we definitely have the strength to do so,” he said. “They are the leaders at the moment but we can give them a hard time.
“It won’t be an easy game but I am sure we can do something in front of our fans.” If they do, then Manchester City and Chelsea will hope to take advantage and secure top spot.
Chelsea should be buoyant after their 1-0 win at City when they host Newcastle while City have to bounce back straightaway by seeing off Norwich at Carrow Road.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was without several key names against Chelsea, including Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, both of whom will also be missing against Norwich.
But the Chilean said he was confident his side had the mentality to bounce back with victory.
“I remember that we won all of the other big games,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve lost a big game, with five or six less players, maybe this defeat will have no psychological effect on our players.
“We’ll see in the next game how we continue.” Tottenham will hope to replace Everton in fifth spot by seeing off Roberto Martinez’s side at White Hart Lane while champions Manchester United will expect to beat bottom side Fulham to close the gap from seventh.
Second—bottom Cardiff make the journey across Wales to face managerless Swansea while third-bottom West Ham will try to take advantage of Aston Villa’s poor home record to clamber out of the relegation zone.
Crystal Palace host West Brom, Southampton face Stoke and Sunderland take on Hull City in the weekend’s other matches.