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Newcastle v Arsenal: Gunners look To End Geordie’s Impressive Run

Newcastle United are a team in form. Not overly long ago, it looked like there was a very real possibility of them being sunk into a relegation dogfight with the likes of Southampton and Stoke City. It wasn’t overly surprising either, considering the lack of transfer activity that had taken place at the club over both Summer and January since they made their way back into the Premier League.Rafa Benitez is a manager that could likely be managing at a top 6 side, but he chose to stick by his team (and one feels it really was his choice – there are other managers who would have left considering the position he found himself in and the club and its ownership in disarray). As of late, it looks like his resilience is paying dividends: the Geordie's have only lost to Liverpool in the last 9 matches – earning very impressive wins Manchester United and Leicester City, and effectively ensuring their security by claiming points against bottom half rivals Huddersfield and the aforementioned Saints. On Sunday, now sitting in 10th position in the table on 38 points, they play host to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.In December during the two sides first league battle, it was Arsenal who came out on top – Mesut Ozil’s wonderful finish the difference between the sides. This time round, with Newcastle in solid form and the league playing second fiddle to Europe on the Gunner’s priority list, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen.In Saturday’s games there were good results for the two teams that Arsenal find themselves sandwiched between – Chelsea in 5th and Burnley in 7th. Chelsea managed to claim all 3 points with an astonishing Olivier Giroud inspired comeback from 2 goals down against Southampton to win 3-2; Burnley pulled off a hugely impressive 2-1 win against Leicester City. What these two results means is that Arsenal’s chance of achieving 5th place took a hit, while the chance of Burnley catching up to them in 6th increased.What this means, as should always be the case anyway, is that Wenger’s side needs a win to keep things ticking along smoothly. Results have been generally good as of late – before Thursday’s draw against CSKA Moscow, the Gunners had won their past 6 games in all competitions, making them unbeaten in 7. That said, I don’t believe it would surprise anybody if the foot was taken off the gas in the league with a Europa League place through the league position looking highly likely and the most realistic path to the Champions League being through winning Europe’s secondary competition.The Premier League is the only competition supporters will be able to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action, with the forward cup-tied in Europe. Aubameyang has been nothing short of prolific since joining the club, and he will be instrumental in the final six league matches.One player who has helped Arsenal regain their footing in recent games is Aubameyang’s striking colleague Danny Welbeck. The oft-injured striker has been instrumental in the past few games he has featured in, and has won great praise from his manager. Speaking prior to the game, Wenger said: “For Danny it has been very good recently because he got games. He needed games and what is good with Danny is that he has a combination of power, pace and determination when he is really at his best physically. He looks like that is where he is now. Maybe he would not be there now if he had played all the games. If Danny is injury-free, he is a very good player. We spoke many times about Danny when he was regularly in the national team. He was a very good player.”Adding to the depth up-front is Alexandre Lacazette, who netted in the previous match against Southampton from the penalty spot and will be hoping to add to his tally of 10 league goals.Sadly not available is January signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan due to an ankle injury – but there is good news on that front5. The Armenian winger may be back sooner than was expected, with Wenger saying in the pre-match build-up that his player may be back to full-fitness in the next two weeks as opposed to at the end of the season.In other team news, Jack Wilshere will be assessed after being forced to withdraw from the fold against CSKA Moscow in midweek, while Granit Xhaka has been struggling with illness and may not feature.His midfield partner – and provider of both assists on Thursday - Mohamed Elneny is available after seeing his red card from the previous game rescinded.Benitez side have few fitness concerns and should be fielding a full-strength team. They have got players who can cause trouble all over the pitch, but have generally found goals in the league hard to come by – there top goalscorer Dwight Gayle has only amassed 5 goals this campaign, with his fellow forwards Joselu and Ayoze Perez netting four.Since his loan move from Chelsea in January, midfielder Kenedy has looked very impressive for the Geordies and will be one player to look out for in Saunday’s tie. Newcastle’s midfield is perhaps their strongest asset, with Jonjo Shelvey a player highly capable of causing damage against big sides – as was clearly seen against Manchester United, where his performance had people speaking about a potential England call-up.Newcastle are within touching distance of reaching the fabled 40-point mark – there goal for much of the season - and could eclipse it on Sunday afternoon with a win against the Gunners. Arsenal on the other hand will want to keep the momentum going and attempt to rectify what has been a torrid season of away league performances.Arsenal make the trip to St. James’s Park to face Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday April 14th with kick off scheduled for 1.30pm.