Arsenal host Reading on Saturday evening, with Arsene Wenger's warning to his players, the fans must hope, ringing in their ears. The Gunners are perilously close to being denied Champions League football next season; they are fifth and four points off north London rivals Tottenham, albeit with a game in hand. Ahead of this match, Wenger has told his first team to expect the sack if they do not perform as expected.
The Royals, meanwhile, continue to flounder in the relegation zone and a full seven points behind Aston Villa in 17th. And with only eight games left (including this fixture), the newly appointed Nigel Adkins has a monstrously difficult task to avoid the drop to the Championship.
The last time these sides met, in mid-December, a superb hat-trick from Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal a 5-2 win at the Madejski Stadium. The last time they played at the Emirates was back in the 2007/08 season, when the London club won 2-0.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 3pm GMT. Follow the match via Arsenal Player on Arsenal's official website (for registered users only). Catch highlights on Match of the Day on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.30pm GMT.
Arsenal players return from the international break hoping to pick up where they left off in the Premier League. The Gunners recorded a deserved, if last-minute, win over Swansea City a fortnight ago, with goals from January signing Nacho Monreal and Ivorian international Gervinho.
In addition, Arsenal are actually in good form; they've won three of their last four games, including a morale-boosting win at Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The only blemish in recent games was the 1-2 defeat to Spurs.
In fact, the defeat to Andre Villas-Boas' men is the only league loss since Chelsea beat them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, back in mid-January. Wenger's men, therefore, have been on a run of five wins in seven Premier League matches leading up to Saturday's game. Best of all, the club has kept two consecutive clean sheets.
Arsenal have won eight of 14 games at home this campaign, scoring an impressive 35 times (second only to Manchester United's 39). On the flip side, they've conceded 19 goals, which is second only to the Swans' 21, among teams in the top ten. Those clean sheets against Munich and Swansea could be an important boost for Wojciech Szczesny and his back four.
Meanwhile, Reading boss Nigel Adkins faces a baptism of fire at the Emirates. The former Southampton boss makes his Royals' debut with a side that has only one away win (in 15 games) this season and very nearly the worst goal difference, on the road, of any side in the English top flight.
Reading lost 0-1 to United at Old Trafford in the last round of games and have not won a match, in any competition, since the 2-1 win against Sunderland in early February. They've lost the last six on a trot and, on present form, are unlikely to trouble the Gunners on their home turf.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W L W L
- Last Result: Swansea City 0 - 2 Arsenal
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L L L L L
- Last Result: Manchester United 1 - 0 Reading
The continued long-term absence of French midfielder Abou Diaby is the talking point ahead of this match, with the 26-year-old's recurring knee problem the issue. Wenger is widely expected to sign a replacement in the summer but, for now, he must make do.
In addition, England internationals Theo Walcott (groin) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are both ruled out, and left-back Kieran Gibbs (illness) is a doubt. Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski might start ahead of his compatriot, Szczesny, between the sticks, furthering speculation Wenger will replace the latter in the summer.
Probable Line-Up: Fabianski; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Arteta; Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud
Adkins has problems enough without worrying about injuries to key players. Unfortunately, he will not have that luxury. Midfielders Jimmy Kebe (groin) and Danny Guthrie (knee) are ruled out. The good news is Australian stopper Adam Federici has returned from injury but he is unlikely to start, with ex-Arsenal veteran Stuart Taylor the present No 1.
Probable Line-Up: Taylor; Kelly, Mariappa, Pearce, Shorey; Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, McCleary; Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak