By 90Min
April 07, 2018

Arsenal will host Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, in a match of far greater importance to the visitors than the hosts.

The Saints are mired in the relegation zone, two points behind 17th-placed Crystal Palace, albeit with a game in hand.

Although defeat against the Gunners would not seal Southampton's fate, it would leave Mark Hughes' side in an extremely precarious position, especially seeing as their next Premier League opponents after the Arsenal game will be fifth-placed Chelsea.

One small glimmer of hope for Southampton is that Arsenal travel to CSKA Moscow next week for the second leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter final, so the Gunners are likely to rest some of their key players and will be keen to avoid injuries to any of their starting XI.

Nevertheless, even a weakened Arsenal side was strong enough to sweep aside Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium last weekend, although the result was more convincing than the Gunners' performance.

Southampton will be desperate to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as Stoke.


Recent form

The signs are not encouraging for Southampton, who have lost three of their last five Premier League matches, scoring just one goal and conceding nine.

In fact, the Saints have won just one Premier League match in 2018 - a hard fought 3-2 away victory over bottom side West Bromwich Albion.

IAN KINGTON/GettyImages

Unlike their opponents, the Gunners have hit a rich vein of form, winning their last five matches in all competitions.

However, this impressive run only came after a dismal sequence of results in which Arsenal lost three successive Premier League matches - thus snuffing out any hope of a top four finish in what has so far been the least successful season of Arsène Wenger's 22-year reign as Arsenal manager.


Classic Encounter

The Gunners have a dominant home record in the league against Southampton, who are yet to notch up a league win at Arsenal in the Premier League era.

However, the Saints came mightily close to a shock victory at Highbury in October 2004, against a far stronger Arsenal side than the one the Saints will face on Sunday.

The previous weekend, the then-reigning Premier League champions had lost in the league for the first time in 50 matches, beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in a notoriously bad-tempered clash at Old Trafford.

Michael Regan/GettyImages

At home to Southampton, the Gunners only just managed to avoid making it two defeats in a row.

For the first three quarters of the match, the Saints frustrated Arsenal, with Thierry Henry guilty of a rare penalty miss for the Gunners and Southampton goalkeeper Antti Niemi in scintillating form.

Henry atoned for his earlier miss with a superb finish from a Dennis Bergkamp long ball in the 67th minute.

But two late headed goals in quick succession from Rory Delap turned the match on its head. They were both assisted by Neil McCann and came either side of a superb save by Niemi from Arsenal's Freddie Ljungberg.

Clive Rose/GettyImages

Delap's late flourish seemed to have put the Saints on course for a famous victory - until Robin van Persie curled in a fine equaliser in the final minute, breaking Southampton hearts.


Team News

Arsenal will be without Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who sustained a knee injury in the Gunners' 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the Europa League on Thursday.

Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla is still sidelined with a long term injury, while goalkeeper David Ospina sprained his ankle in training and is expected to be out for two to three weeks.

There are currently no injury worries for Southampton manager Mark Hughes ahead of Sunday's clash.

He was particularly pleased about the return to action last weekend of Saints top scorer Charlie Austin, who had been out for three months after injuring his hamstring against Huddersfield Town in December.

Potential Arsenal Lineup: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal; Elneny, Ramsey, Özil, Wilshere, Welbeck; Aubameyang.

Potential Southampton Lineup: McCarthy; Bertrand, Hoedt, Stephens, Soares; Redmond, Lemina, Højbjerg, Tadic; Austin, Gabbiadini.


Prediction

So far, the appointment of Mark Hughes has given Saints fans no reason to believe that their side has turned the corner in time to stave off relegation. In fact, Southampton's abject display away to West Ham last week was arguably one of their worst in a poor season.

If the Saints cannot keep out strugglers West Ham, they are unlikely to fare better against the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey.

The Gunners ought to win with ease.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Southampton

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