Man Utd vs Arsenal: can Gunners bounce back after Barcelona?

Pundits tip title-chasing Londoners to overcome injury-hit United at Old Trafford as Premier League returns

Danny Welbeck of Arsenal
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty )

The Premier League returns this weekend after a two-week hiatus. For some clubs, notably Leicester City, the break has given the players the chance to recharge their batteries, but for others, there has been no respite, with second-placed Tottenham Hotspur having played three times since Valentine's Day.

League leaders Leicester return to action against Norwich on Sunday, while Arsenal and Spurs play the following day, knowing that if the Foxes slip up, a win could put them top of the table.

Spurs face Swansea, but the game of the weekend (discounting the Capital One Cup final between Manchester City and Liverpool) is the clash between Arsenal and Manchester United at Old Trafford.

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On paper, the title-chasing Gunners should ease past a dispirited and injury-hit United, who have struggled at home in the Premier League all season.

However, United against Arsenal is no ordinary game and events in Europe this week could also have a bearing on the outcome.

The Gunners won at Old Trafford in the FA Cup last season and beat United 3-0 at the Emirates earlier this term, but their last league win at Old Trafford came in 2006. Since then, they have lost six and drawn two, notes The Independent, which also points out that Arsenal have only won two of their last seven Premier League away matches.

Much depends on how the Gunners bounce back from their midweek disappointment against Barcelona, while United will have been given a boost by their 5-1 win over FC Midtjylland.

However, Paul Merson of Sky Sports does not believe the clubs' "midweek exertions" will have an impact and that Arsenal will come out on top.

Mark Lawrenson of the BBC agrees and points out that it took Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar to break down the Gunners on Tuesday. The United attack, which could well feature teenager Marcus Rashford, if Anthony Martial is ruled out, does not "carry the same threat".

But it is United's defence that concerns former player Paul Scholes, reports the Daily Mail. Centre-back Chris Smalling was ruled out of the game on Thursday with a shoulder problem and if he is still missing at the weekend, manager Louis van Gaal will be forced to field a very inexperienced back four, with six defenders on the treatment table.

"Arsenal are a really good team with some brilliant attacking players and I'd fear for [United] a little bit on Sunday with that back four to be honest with you," he said.

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