LONDON - Often reserving their best form for tougher games, manager Arsene Wenger hopes the right Arsenal side turns up for Sunday's clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool. The two teams have already beaten title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea but fifth-placed Arsenal have too frequently stuttered against lesser opposition. Defeats by Fulham, Hull City, Stoke City, Manchester City and Aston Villa have left the Gunners eight points behind Liverpool. Typically one of the best fixtures on the calendar, an away win for Rafa Benitez's men would open a four-point gap at the top, with United contesting the Club World Cup in Japan and second-placed Chelsea not playing until Monday. "We have beaten Chelsea and United this season but we have to remember Arsenal have done the same," Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano told his club's website (www.liverpoolfc.tv). "I think they play much better against the top teams and so we know it will be a hard match. But if we play our football and use our heads then we can win the game." BRIDGE OF SIGHS Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chelsea travel to Everton, in seventh, and will be glad to get away from Stamford Bridge having won only one of their last five home matches. New Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce, who replaced the sacked Paul Ince on Wednesday, faces a relegation battle at home to Stoke City in his first match on Saturday. Second-bottom Rovers have lost six successive league games and are six points adrift of safety in a crowded bottom half of the table. A win for Aston Villa at West Ham United, buoyed by a draw at Chelsea last weekend, would lift Martin O'Neill's side to third spot while sixth-placed Hull can keep the pressure on Arsenal with a victory at home to managerless Sunderland. The other matches on Saturday are Bolton Wanderers at home to Portsmouth and Middlesbrough visiting Fulham. On Sunday, surprise relegation scrappers Manchester City travel to bottom club West Bromwich Albion having won only once in eight league games while Newcastle United host a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur.
18 December 2008
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