Since Arsenal last played a football match, United and Chelsea have played four times, mustering just three points between them to give us the chance to pull a distance clear at the top.
And it is a chance that must not be missed. If the home game against Blackburn tomorrow night ends in victory and a five point lead, then this would’ve been the perfect weekend. If it doesn’t, a glorious chance would’ve been missed, with United, having played their derby, and Chelsea, having faced Liverpool, able to take relief that after a weekend of tough fixtures, they hadn’t lost any ground. The line is a fine one.
For the match, it is a case of trying to find eleven fit players. Almunia is still out, so Lehmann will continue, while Gallas is the only fit centre back, Senderos having picking up an injury for Switzerland, ironically when Bentley charged into him. I wouldn’t be cynical enough to suggest Mark Hughes had instructed him accordingly. Meanwhile, Toure didn’t play for the Ivory Coast in their third placed playoff, but looked badly short of fitness in the semi final and shouldn’t be rushed in if at all possible. Djourou remains absent.
In midfield, Flamini’s injury for France will hopefully clear up quickly, as his energy is missed whenever he is absent. With Gilberto unhappy at the club and likely to leave in the summer, our central midfield options are not as strong as they were, especially with Denilson spending extended time recovering from injury. Wide, Rosicky’s muscles are still causing problems, and with Eboue also flying back from Ghana, he is unlikely to be in the best shape to play either.
Up front, Van Persie is still out, so a lot again rests on Adebayor and Eduardo. With the Croatian so new to the club, Adebayor has really taken on the responsibility of being the main man superbly well. Long may it continue, starting with tomorrow night – at least Blackburn’s typically physical style won’t faze him.
Elsewhere, Alex Song started the African Nations Cup final, but it ended in double disappointment, with him going off injured in the first half, and Egypt eventually overcoming Cameroon to retain the trophy.
I’m off to watch the highlights of Man City firstly defying the press by perfectly respecting the minute’s silence earlier today, and then confounding them by beating United at Old Trafford. You’ve got to love City – they’ve given us six points this season while beating United twice and taking points from Liverpool. Thanks Sven.