Sunday, December 23, 2007

Portsmouth vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

League leaders Arsenal are to take on 7th placed Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Boxing Day.

The Gunners, who sport a clean bill of health, will be looking for six points out of six in their next two matches to go into the new year as leaders, but they will have to work hard as they face quality opposition in Portsmouth and Everton.

Portsmouth are a bit short on confidence though, having begun to falter after a bright start to the season. They have gotten only four points out of four matches this month, and will be missing Noe Pamarot, Linvoy Primus, and Martin Cranie, although Sean Davis and former Arsenal defender Lauren should b back in time for the clash.

Arsenal on the other hand are high on morale, having won four games in a row since losing to Middlesbrough. The Gunners recently completed the double over rivals Tottenham Hotspur after winning their second London derby in two weeks (the other a 1-0 win over Chelsea).

Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie are the only doubts for the Gunners, although the former should recover from a virus soon enough to be fit to play at Fratton Park on Wednesday and the latter may also feature.

Manuel Almunia, who finished Saturday's game with a penalty kick save, will keep his place in goal behind Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, and Gael Clichy. These five will have their hands full with former Gunner Nwankwo Kanu and the brilliant Benjani.

In the midfield the brilliant quartet of Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas will try to boss around a Pompey midfield which includes the likes of Niko Kranjcar, Sulley Muntari and John Utaka. If van Persie isn't fit, they will most likely be joined by Emmanuel Eboue in a 4-5-1 with Hleb playing off of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor may finally link up with Robin van Persie in the attack after the Dutchman missed the North London derby with a small knock. If he doesn't feature, Wenger will either play Eboue as a fifth midfielder, or play Nicklas Bendtner, who scored the match winner against Tottenham last weekend, up front with Adebayor. Eboue is the more likely option, but I would personally like to see Bendtner get a start alongside Adebayor.

Pompey are a bit short in confidence, and should fall prey to Arsene Wenger's brilliant Gunners. A nearly full-strength side should do away with Harry Redknapp's side, keeping Arsenal at the top of the table.