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Arsenal host Newcastle United at the Emirates, with Arsene Wenger and the Gunners eager to end a largely disappointing year on a high note. The north London club have clawed themselves back into contention for a Champions League place next year, on the back of two successive Premier League wins but still trail Tottenham, Everton and West Brom by three points.

Wigan v Arsenal

Wenger has sounded extremely bullish ahead of this game, insisting that even leaders Manchester United (16 points clear) were not out of reach. Privately though, the Arsenal manager would probably settle for a strong end to the year before anything else.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have failed to build on a fabulous 2011/12 campaign, which saw the Magpies flirt with Champions League football for much of the year before settling for a UEFA Europa League spot. The club's European performances have been good and they face Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv in the first knock-out round. However, domestically Alan Pardew's team has struggled, with only 20 points from 19 games. The Boxing Day defeat to United leaves them only five points clear of the drop zone.

Where to Watch Live

Kick-off is set for 5.30pm GMT. Live coverage starts an hour prior, on ESPN and ESPN HD. Catch highlights on Match of the Day, on BBC One and BBC One HD, at 10.25pm GMT.


Arsenal are still recovering from a horrid December. The Gunners lost two of the first three fixtures this month - at home to Swansea City in the Premier League and away to Olympiakos in the Champions League. The humiliation of a defeat on penalties to League Two side Bradford City (Capital One Cup) did not help.

Manchester United v Newcastle United

However, the north London club has won three of four league fixtures this month, even if the 2-0 win over West Brom, at home, was riddled with controversy. The better news is they come into this game after a win against Wigan Athletic; Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta scored the only goal of the game.

Three points from this fixture are vital if Arsenal want to keep Everton, Spurs and West Brom in their sights, particularly with all three sides having recorded mid-week wins as well. The race for the final Champions League position and the one UEFA Europa League slot (assuming Chelsea maintain their momentum in third position) looks to be a straight fight between these four clubs.

Newcastle are in trouble. The unfortunate defeat to United means Pardew and his men have lost four of the last five games and have just five league wins all season. Worse still, the Magpies have conceded 11 goals in their last five games, scoring only six.

Another defeat will increase the threat of a relegation battle at St James' Park and only the fact that all the teams below - Aston Villa, Reading, QPR, Southampton and Wigan - are in worse form is keeping Newcastle out of harm's way, for now.

Team Form


  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W D W L
  • Last Match: Wigan Athletic 0 - 1 Arsenal
Arsene Wenger

Newcastle United

  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W L L L
  • Last Match: Manchester United 4 - 3 Newcastle United

Team News

Arsenal: The good news for the London club is that their Boxing Day fixture against West Ham United was postponed because of a tube strike in London. This means Arsenal have had a full week's rest ahead of the Magpies' visit.

Furthermore, Wenger, speaking to the club's official website, has confirmed there are no new injury worries. Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky and French striker Olivier Giroud are both expected back in the first team, although it is likely they will start from the bench.

Arsenal will probably name an unchanged side from that which beat the Latics and will also be boosted by news that French midfielder Abou Diaby and left back Andre Santos could return to training next week.

Probable Line-Up: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshire; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski; Walcott

Newcastle United: Defender Mike Williamson misses this match as he serves a one-match suspension for picking up five yellow cards. However, Ivory Coast midfielder Cheikh Tiote will return for the Magpies, after serving a similar suspension in the last game.

Unfortunately, that is as good as it gets for Pardew. Summer signing Vurnon Anita, French midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye and winger Jonas Gutierrez are all unavailable. Long-term casualties Steven Taylor, Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic remain unavailable.

Probable Line-Up: Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Perch, Santon; Bigirimana, Tiote; Cisse, Marveaux, Ameobi; Ba