This Sunday, the Premier League has one of its biggest ties of the season. Reigning champions Manchester United travel down to the capital to take on long time Premiership rivals Arsenal.
Both clubs have seen a resurgence in form since less than auspicious starts, to sit in second and third in the division. Manchester United have one more point than the Gunners from the same number of games, with identical goal difference after 23 games.
Manchester United come into the tie after a 3-1 victory over cross city rivals Manchester City in the Carling Cup, were they won 3-1 to go through to the final at Wembley 4-3 on aggregate after a last ditched winner in injury time.
Arsenal are in the middle of a very tight and congested period of fixtures that could make or break their season. After a mid-week 0-0 draw away to Aston Villa, Arsene Wenger will be hoping to get back to winning ways and avenge the 2-1 loss to Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils in late August last year.
To assess just how the two teams have been doing this season in the League and Europe, I have knocked the heads together of Callum D'Souza ( from the Arsenal community page) and Salaar Shamsi ( from Manchester United's) .
* for the answers I will use CDS for Callum and SS for Salaar.
CDS - I think its been a good first half for the Gunners. They started strongly with those early big wins but then came the Manchester losses which lead people to believe they may struggle.
Then another strong period until the two losses to Sunderland and Chelsea and the Gunners were sort of written off. But they’ve done very well and had a strong couple of months and are well in the title race.
SS - Manchester United have had a decent season so far. I think they’ve proved to a certain extent that they can cope without Ronaldo and Tevez. Even though they have been quite inconsistent this season, they are still in second place and still in contention for the title.
CDS - Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. It will be agonizingly close and any three could win it.
SS - Obviously, Chelsea are favourites, they are in great form, they’ve got a good balance to their side and the goals appear to be flowing for them but I think this season’s title race could go down to the wire if the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United get their act together. Consistency is the key.
CDS - How do you see the rest of your Champions League campaign going?
Arsenal face Porto in the next round, which will be a tough challenge. I am confident this is a season that the Gunners do well in Europe and hopefully can go a couple of wins better than last season’s.
SS - United cruised through the group stages, a defeat to Besiktas came only after all was done and dusted but AC Milan are a tough opponent.
I think United need to get a clean sheet at the San Siro to have any chance of making it through, they’re defense has been too shaky off late and Milan will provide a stern test.
It’s possible but I honestly don’t think United will make the final thrice in a row.
CDS - No signing’s bar an aging Sol Campbell. I do expect some one to come in, however, whether it's a midfielder, striker of a defender.
SS - United aren’t really looking to buy any players despite several injuries. Sir Alex is content with his squad and financial constraints haven’t allowed them to dip into the transfer market.
CDS - David Villa, but it was really never an option. I would of liked to have seen Chamakh or but now I am not to sure.
SS - I think United need an imposing defender. Cosic, Subotic, and Marchena have all been mentioned and any of these could be a worthy addition considering speculation of Nemanja Vidic’s departure and Rio Ferdinand’s injury woes.
Nani could be sold to ease financial problems the club is facing.
CDS - Arsenal to have the tendency to start slow in matches then moment of Fabregas or who ever brilliance and Arsenal have the lead. I think the pace and quick passing is the best way.
SS - Arsenal have been largely dependent on Fabregas this season. United need to make sure they don’t allow Fabregas the freedom to have an impact on the game. Considering it’s at Emirates, United would be better advised to use the counterattack to good effect, the likes of Valencia and Fletcher could be pivotal in this game.
CDS - No one really. Each team has players I admire but none I am afraid of.
SS - Arshavin and Fabregas are the usual suspects. Keep an eye on Diaby, he will be keen for revenge.
CDS - The 4-3-3 has worked really well this season and the structure is very strong.
SS - Sir Alex will probably go with a five man midfield but personally, I’d like to see go out with an attacking mindset. Rooney upfront on his own is useless. I’d like to see two men upfront and United using the wings to put pressure on Arsenal’s back line. The 4-5-1 just isn’t working for United this season.
CDS - If all goes to plan Arsenal at the top then Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa.
SS - It’s really hard to predict the top six, especially considering Liverpool’s inconsistency.If Liverpool get their act together, they could still end up in fourth place, but if they continue their horrible run, they could even end up in the bottom half of the table.
I think United and Chelsea will take the title race down to the wire and I think the Blues will just nick it, right at the end. Arsenal are obvious contenders for the third place while Man City and Spurs will fight hammer and tonge for the final Champions League spot. Liverpool and Aston Villa are also in the running but I don’t they will have enough left in the tank. Birmingham, Fulham and Everton will miss out on the top six but only just.
CDS - I honestly cannot say their several options. I wouldn’t like to see West Ham or Pompey go down though.
SS - Pompey and Wolves. I’m not too sure on the last one. It’s between Bolton, West Ham, Stoke and Hull.
Well two of B/R's finest have spoken, and in Callum's case very briefly, but what they haven't really said is just how close the season has been so far.
With only one point between the two teams and both suffering a few injuries stamina and experience will be key. Arsenal's signing of Campbell may be a masterstroke for the Gunners.
However, for Ferguson the loss of Ferdinand for four games at a key part of the season for violent conduct may be a cause for the Red Devils to stumble,
What ever the outcome on Sunday, it's sure to be a classic match up between the two famous clubs.
Special thanks from me to Salaar and Callum for all their help.