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It took Eddie Nketiah all of 50 minutes on Wednesday night to equal Alexandre Lacazette‘s Premier League open play goal tally for the entire season, as the 22-year-old led the Arsenal charge in a phenomenal spectacle at Stamford Bridge to end their three-game losing run.
Handed another opportunity to impress from the off after Lacazette’s COVID-19 recovery, Nketiah took advantage of Chelsea’s defensive lapses to register his first Premier League brace alongside strikes from fellow Hale End graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka – the latter banishing his Euro 2020 penalty woes with a confidently-taken spot kick right at the death.
Finally rediscovering their magic touch against a Chelsea side who were all over the shop defensively means that fourth spot is still technically in Arsenal’s hands, with Mikel Arteta‘s side only behind Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference ahead of what will seemingly be a pivotal North London derby on May 12.
A spate of devastating injuries and failure to bolster the attacking ranks in January seemed like it was going to prove costly for the Gunners after losses to Crystal Palace, Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion, but Arteta’s side produced in the big game on Wednesday and will see no reason why they cannot boost their top-four hopes at the expense of United’s this weekend.
Despite suffering back-to-back home losses to Liverpool and Brighton, Arsenal’s tally of 32 points on familiar territory is still the third-best record in the division, and the Gunners have all the motivation they need to avoid a run of three straight home defeats for the third season in a row.
Arsenal fans were overjoyed at the sight of Takehiro Tomiyasu back on the training pitches earlier this week, but the right-back was still not involved in the win over Chelsea and may only be considered for a place on the bench here.
Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney remain sidelined for the long-term, but Arteta has no fresh concerns to contend with following Wednesday’s victory and has some big calls in all areas of the pitch, with Nketiah surely doing enough to start up top once again.
Mohamed Elneny performed admirably in the midfield on Wednesday and could once again join Granit Xhaka here, with Rob Holding also hopeful of keeping his place in the backline despite a couple of shaky passes in midweek.
As for the visitors, Cristiano Ronaldo was understandably not involved in midweek after the tragic death of his newborn son, but the 37-year-old is now back in training and could feature at the Emirates.
Scott McTominay‘s return from a foot problem is timely after Paul Pogba was taken off with a calf issue after only 10 minutes against Liverpool, joining Luke Shaw, Fred and Edinson Cavani in the medical bay.
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One positive for Rangnick is that he will be able to welcome Raphael Varane back to the squad this weekend, and the United boss is reportedly preparing to take Harry Maguire out of the first XI after a bomb threat at the defender’s home.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Nketiah
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; Matic, McTominay; Elanga, Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo