Arsenal face a tricky road test against Fulham on Saturday as their pursuit of a Champions League berth for next season continues. The Gunners currently sit in fourth place. Tottenham and Everton are both within striking distance of the coveted spot.
They were only able to secure a scoreless home draw with the Toffees in a midweek clash. With only a handful of matches left, securing three points from the match with Fulham is even more crucial. All four teams in the race, including Chelsea, have very little margin for error.
Fulham will attempt to play the role of spoiler. The Cottagers are destined to finish in the middle of the table after an up-and-down campaign. They are currently going through one of those down periods (winless in last three), and the Gunners must capitalize on that.
Here's a look at all the important viewing information for the key match, followed by a preview and prediction as the pressure continues to rise at both ends of the Premier League.
Where: Craven Cottage in Fulham, England
When: Saturday, April 20 at 10 a.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Arsenal entered the Everton match on a streak of five straight matches with at least two goals. That made the club's inability to generate more good scoring chances a surprise, but the back line stepped up to ensure they still escaped with a point.
The focus against Fulham must be on earning three points, which means the Gunners will need to push the pace and put on as much offensive pressure as possible. If they are tied or trailing in the second half, they must take risks defensively in an attempt to get the win.
Since four clubs are basically battling for two spots, a draw or loss from this point forward will likely lead to some lost ground in the Champions League race.
The Gunners will lean heavily on the likes of Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott to lead the charge. All three are enjoying solid seasons and must make sure the midweek struggles don't develop into a drought.
Mikel Arteta is the other key player. The playmaking midfielder should receive a lot of touches in the middle of the field with Arsenal controlling possession. If he's able to turn those touches into opportunities in the final third, Arsenal will eventually take advantage.
Knowing Arsenal is going to be on the offensive throughout, it will be interesting to see if Martin Jol's side employ a counterattack approach, hunkering down in their half of the field and hoping to create a couple of chances on the break for Dimitar Berbatov.
The more open the match becomes, the more it will favor Arsenal. The same was true for Fulham against Chelsea the last time out, and the Blues cruised to a 3-0 victory.
There will probably be many tense moments for the Gunners and their supporters. In the end, they should be able to get the much-needed victory.
Prediction: Arsenal 2, Fulham 0
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