Arsenal seek 8-point lead in title race

Arsenal’s defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round in January may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as this Sunday they have the chance to open an eight-point lead over City in the Premier League title race.

City have gone on to reach the quarter-finals and will face Championship leaders Burnley tomorrow, then will be keeping their fingers crossed that Crystal Palace can do them a favour and halt Arsenal’s charge 24 hours later.

Arsenal will host a Palace side without a win in any competition in 2023 and will see it as a gilt-edged chance to really turn up the heat on Pep Guardiola’s champions.

Eight points ahead, albeit from one game more, would be a sizeable cushion for the Gunners to take into the international break as a first English title since 2004 glints on the horizon.

In the last four league meetings with Palace at home, they have drawn three and lost the other.

This season feels different, however, with Arsenal showing no sign of faltering in their quest to dethrone City.

Should they do it, former Liverpool midfielder and now Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp believes it would rank not far below Leicester City’s fairytale title in 2016.

“From where Arsenal were, if they were to win the title it would go down as one of the great Premier League achievements,” Redknapp said after Mikel Arteta’s side swept to a 3-0 victory at Fulham last weekend, their fifth successive league win since losing to Man City last month.

“It’s so big how he’s turned it around and done it so quickly. This is a different Arsenal. This team right now mentally is so strong.”

Palace, managed by former Arsenal great Patrick Vieira, are in a horrible rut and 12th place in the standings is misleading as they are only three points above the relegation zone after Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat away to Brighton and Hove Albion, their fourth successive match without scoring.

Brighton’s win put them very much in the reckoning for a top-four finish as they are six points behind Tottenham Hotspur, who are fourth, with two games in hand.

They are also in FA Cup action this weekend but fifth-placed Newcastle United are very much in the mix too and they can move to within a one point of Tottenham, with a game in hand, if they win at struggling Nottingham Forest in the opening Premier League game of the weekend on Friday.

Tottenham, who bounced back to form by beating Forest last weekend, travel to bottom club Southampton tomorrow while Brentford, who are also sniffing a chance to qualify for Europe, welcome Leicester.

Leicester are in dire need of points as they are only out of the bottom three on goal difference but Brentford are formidable at home, winning seven and drawing five of their league games at their atmospheric Brentford Community Stadium.

The situation at the bottom could not be tighter with five points separating bottom club Southampton from 12th-placed Palace.

Bournemouth remain in the bottom three on goal difference but after last weekend’s win over Liverpool they head to Aston Villa tomorrow in confident mood, especially as they have won their last four clashes with the Midlands club.

Second-from-bottom Leeds United travel to 13th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow while 15th-placed Everton, who look rejuvenated under Sean Dyche, head to a 10th-placed Chelsea side bidding for a third consecutive league win. — Reuters

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