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Soccer-Title-chasing Arsenal seek home comforts against Southampton

By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Arsenal’s title pursuit has entered choppy waters but they have the perfect opportunity to steady the ship when they host the Premier League’s bottom club Southampton on Friday with a seven-point lead up for grabs.

With a first championship since 2004 glinting on the horizon, Mikel Arteta’s side have displayed signs of nerves in the past two weeks as they twice squandered two-goal leads to draw 2-2 away at Liverpool and West Ham United.

Those results have allowed a rampant Manchester City to move within four points of the Gunners with a game in hand and Pep Guardiola’s treble-chasing reigning champions now have their destiny back in their own hands.

However, Arsenal remain in a powerful position with seven matches of the season remaining, four of which are at The Emirates which according to Arteta could be a crucial factor.

The Spaniard looked rather crestfallen after the draw at West Ham in which Bukayo Saka missed a penalty. But Arteta was far more upbeat when speaking to reporters on Thursday.

“My players are really looking forward to tomorrow — to get the game we want and the result we want, playing in front of our crowd again,” he said.

“It’s a Friday night. It has to be electric. There are seven games left. We have four to play at the Emirates, which is a big thing and we are looking forward to it.”

With an FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United on Saturday, Manchester City’s next league game is Wednesday’s potential title-decider at home to Arsenal.

Arteta said his players must put all thoughts of the looming trip to the Etihad out of their minds until after the Southampton game.

“We just have to focus on what we have to do each day,” Arteta added. “The club hasn’t fought for this position for a very long time. It is in our hands and we want to do it.”

TOP FOUR

The battle to finish in the top four reaches a head on Sunday when Newcastle United host Tottenham Hotspur.

Newcastle slipped to fourth place last weekend following a 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa but fifth-placed Tottenham then slipped up by losing 3-2 at home to Bournemouth.

Newcastle have 56 points from 30 games with Spurs three points worse off having played a game more.

Victory for Newcastle would be a huge step in their bid to return to the Champions League after a two-decade absence.

The fight for survival at the other end of the table continues with second-bottom Leicester City in desperate need of a home victory against mid-table Wolverhampton Wanderers after a dreadful run of eight defeats in nine league games.

Leicester, who appointed Dean Smith as interim manager last week, have 25 points from 31 games, with Southampton on 23 points and in danger of being marooned.

Third-bottom Nottingham Forest (27 points), who are without a win in 10 league games, visit Liverpool on Saturday.

Everton, hovering just above the drop zone on goal difference, are at a Crystal Palace side seeking a fourth straight win since Roy Hodgson returned as interim manager.

Leeds United, who are two points above the relegation zone, travel to Fulham.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the Reuters news service. ThePrint holds no responsibilty for its content.

Source: The Print

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