Misery for the Reds in Budapest as they crash out of Champions League.
|Drogba could be the star of the highly anticipated London derby [GALLO/GETTY]|
Arsenal defenders must target Chelsea striker Didier Drogba ahead of their derby clash to keep a hold on their English Premier League title chase.
A surprise defeat at Sunderland last week – the first in more than two months – has left Arsenal eight points adrift of Chelsea going into Sunday’s match against the league leaders, albeit with a game in hand.
The danger man will be the Ivory Coast striker, who has scored nine league goals for Chelsea this season.
“Drogba is very strong and is in a very good place so we have to be careful about him,” Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue, the striker’s Ivory Coast teammate, told ESPN.
“It is very difficult to beat Chelsea at the moment because they are very, very solid and very, very focused. But me, I believe in our team.
“I think it is important to play our game, play forward and to think we can do something against them.”
Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia knows the Premier League title will remain elusive unless his team avoids making sloppy mistakes.
“Because they are one of our direct opponents in the title race we have to make sure we have no silly mistakes,” the 32-year-old Almunia told the London Evening Standard.
“People are used to seeing Arsenal as a great team with beautiful football but if we lose our identity for four or five games in the season, you are not going to win the title.
Saturday November 28
Aston Villa v Tottenham
Sunday November 29
Arsenal v Chelsea
“Without your identity, you have nothing and you will lose.
“There are players who can lead this team and have great character but I think more people have to show leadership no matter what age they are. In football, with no character you don’t win anything.”
Arsenal defender William Gallas is a doubt to face his former club at the Emirates Stadium as the Frenchman is struggling with an eye injury, but Russia playmaker Andrei Arshavin will be available despite needing staples in a wound after a clash of heads with Gallas in the Champions League victory over Standard Liege on Tuesday.
Left back Kieran Gibbs is out for three months, but Theo Walcott could return to boost manager Arsene Wenger’s attacking options following injuries to Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner.
League leaders Chelsea could welcome England international Frank Lampard back from a thigh injury after the midfielder returned to training this week.
Chelsea’s trip to Arsenal is one of three derby matches on Sunday, with Wolves hosting Birmingham and Liverpool making the short trip to Everton.
Defeat for either manager in the Merseyside battle at Goodison Park would further destabilise their positions.
Rafa Benitez has guided Liverpool to just two wins in 10 matches – a slump that has seen the side crash out of the Champions League and slide down the Premier League standings to seventh.
“Benitez has shown that he is the right man to take Liverpool forward,” said striker Fernando Torres, who will face a late fitness test.
“Now is the time for everybody to stick together. We must be united to finish as high as possible in the Premier League. I am convinced that we will end up in the top four.”
While Liverpool’s priority is securing one of the four Champions League spots, Everton are becoming embroiled in a relegation struggle.
David Moyes is accepting full responsibility for Everton winning just one of their last 10 matches, sending the team to within four points of the bottom three.
“You can’t really say that both teams are going into it playing equally as badly,” Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini said.
“Everton’s run of results has been worse, so we cannot afford to be complacent in any way.”
|New Pompey manager Avram Grant will be thrown in the deep end against United [AFP]|
Bottom-place Portsmouth have changed manager this week in an attempt to retain their topflight status.
Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, who is switching from his role as Portsmouth’s director of football to replace Paul Hart, has a daunting first test on Saturday at home to defending champions Manchester United, who are looking to close the five-point gap on Chelsea.
“Avram’s knowledge is immense,” Portsmouth goalkeeper David James said.
“He’s like Yoda (from Star Wars). His pearls of wisdom are far-reaching. He is just what we need to get us out of trouble. He’s very different and profound which appeals to me.
“He has the total respect of me and will get the instant respect of the players. Avram has got what it takes for a relegation fight.”
Portsmouth remain hopeful the Premier League will lift their ban on the club buying players in time for the January transfer window.
Pompey were hit with the indefinite transfer embargo last month because of debts owed to other English clubs.
Chief executive Peter Storrie said that owner Ali Al-Faraj, the Saudi Arabian property magnate, will make money available in January for Avram Grant, who will only officially move across from director of football to manager when work permit issues are resolved.
“It’s a big challenge,” Grant said.
“We deserve to stay in the Premier League.”
In Saturday’s late match, fourth-placed Tottenham are looking to build on their 9-1 demolition of Wigan with a victory over Aston Villa, who are one place and three points behind Spurs.
Manchester City still harbour top four ambitions, but the expensively assembled squad must end a six-match drawing streak against a resurgent Hull on Saturday.
Blackburn will be hosting Stoke without Sam Allardyce in the dugout as the manager recovers from scheduled heart surgery on Friday.