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Title chase continues in United’s absence

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    While Manchester United attempt to secure the title of the World’s Best Club in the Far East, the three remaining members of the Big Four aim to rack up some Premier League points.

    The weekend’s big game is undoubtedly leaders Liverpool’s (2/1) trip to the Emirates to face fifth place Arsenal (7/5).

    Arsene Wenger’s Gunners have had a tough time of late, edging a 1-0 win over Wigan in their last home game, which was marred by the booing of Emmanuel Eboue.

    They then slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Porto in mid-week, before dropping two points away to Middlesbrough last weekend.

    However Wenger and his men know that three points against the Reds would close the gap between the two teams to just five points, putting the north Londoners right back in the title race – Arsenal are 7/1 to record another 1-0 win on home turf.

    Wenger said ahead of the game: “I am confident we will come back and catch some ground before Christmas and then push on. That is the question we want to answer in the next month, to not only show that we have potential, but that we can respond to the expectation level of our fans.”

    With striker Nicklaus Bendtner doubtful with a knee problem, frontmen Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin Van Persie are almost certain to start – the pair have netted seven times each in the league this term and are both 5/1 to net first here.

    For Liverpool, marksman Robbie Keane will be desperate for a goal to silence his doubters.

    The Irish international still has only two league strikes this season and would love to break the deadlock on Sunday, priced at 7/1.

    On Saturday, Aston Villa (11/8) will attempt to get another three points on the board when they travel to Upton Park to play West Ham (2/1).

    Martin O’Neill’s Midlanders pulled off an emphatic 4-2 win over Bolton last time out, but have not won away to the east London side since 1996.

    After seeing his strike force misfire in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea last weekend West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola could be tempted to hand a second start to Diego Tristan, who bagged two goals while playing for the reserves in mid-week – the former Deportivo La Coruna striker is 9/1 to make it 1-0.

    Gareth Barry could score for in a Villa shirt for the 50th time – the England midfielder is 10/1 to make it the first goal of the match, an achievement which seemed unlikely when he looked destined to leave for Liverpool at the start of the season.

    Elsewhere, Sam Allardyce will get his spell as Blackburn Rovers manager underway when Stoke City visit Ewood Park.

    Blackburn (4/5) are in difficulty after losing six games in the bounce in the league, while Stoke (7/2) have not lost in four Premier League games.

    Rovers hitman Roque Santa Cruz has been linked with a move across the north-west to Manchester City in the summer, but Allardyce has expressed a desire to keep his best players for the relegation battle which lies ahead.

    The former Bayern Munich striker is 9/2 to start Big Sam’s reign with a bang by scoring the first goal.

    Can Arsenal haul themselves back in the title hunt?


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