Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said Sunday's trip to Manchester United could have a big impact on the club's hopes of claiming this season's Premier League title. Meanwhile, former Red Devil Danny Welbeck is a doubt to face his former club.
The Frenchman addressed the media on Friday and admitted that even with 12 matches left to play in the league this season, Sunday's result could have a telling impact on Arsenal's trophy hopes, per the Mirror's Ben Burrows: “If we win it puts us in a strong position, but there is still a long way to go.”
Wenger hailed the prestige of this fixture, although Arsenal haven't won a league game at Old Trafford since September 2006: “It is a special place, and it is always a special fixture for any side.”
The north Londoners recently welcomed Welbeck back into the team after a lengthy injury layoff, and the England striker came off the bench to feature in Tuesday's 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Barcelona.
Who will emerge victorious at Old Trafford on Sunday?
Welbeck's last contribution in the Premier League was a match-winning goal in the dying minutes of a 2-1 victory over leaders Leicester City, but the forward isn't a certainty to face his old club on Sunday. Wenger said Arsenal "still need to be cautious with Welbeck.”
While one former United striker is finding his way in north London, a new youngster has emerged at Old Trafford in the form of Marcus Rashford, who netted a debut brace against FC Midtjylland on Thursday evening in the UEFA Europa League.
Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up for the Red Devils' 5-1 victory, and with captain Wayne Rooney already sidelined, Rashford was called up late to start. Wenger confessed he knew nothing of the teenager who could come up against his side this Sunday, per the Daily Mail's Sam Cunningham:
Wenger on preparing for Man United: 'I know all their players, but Rashford I didn’t know. I watched him last night.'— Sam Cunningham (@samcunningham) February 26, 2016
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left the pitch during Tuesday's 2-0 loss, and Wenger confirmed the winger's injury is "quite serious," per Burrows: “We lost Chamberlain on Tuesday. His injury is quite serious and keeps him out for a few weeks. He’s seeing a knee specialist.”
James Olley of the London Evening Standard provided further quotes from the Gunners chief, who went on to guess just how long he thinks his player could be out of action:
He has been cut into by Mascherano. He did his knee. We have to see how big the damage is. Hopefully we'll have more news later. I don't think it was a malicious tackle. He is devastated. Let's hope we get good news and that it's only 2-3 weeks not 6 or 7.
Arsenal travel to the Theatre of Dreams having failed to win in their last two outings, while Louis van Gaal's United side come into the clash on the back of successive wins against Shrewsbury Town and FC Midtjylland.
A loss at Old Trafford would be a damaging blow to the Gunners' title bid, and a United team just coming into form could threaten their chances of extending their three-match unbeaten run in the league.