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Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham United

Sports Mole previews the London derby between Arsenal and West Ham at the Emirates Stadium as the Gunners seek to enhance their Premier League top-four aspirations.

Arsenal will be hoping to take advantage of faltering West Ham United and enhance their top-four aspirations at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gunners are the only Champions League chasers in action on Saturday and have the chance to put four points between them and the chasing pack.

In fact, a 10th successive victory over their London rivals would see Arsene Wenger's side close to within a point of second-placed Manchester City.

So while their current European campaign may be hanging by a thread – they travel to Monaco on Tuesday needing to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit - Arsenal are well positioned to reach the Champions League for an 18th straight year.

A repeat of their top-four finish and FA Cup double of last campaign would represent another good season and was moved a step closer courtesy of their 2-1 victory over old rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday.

In a week of players coming back to haunt their former clubs, it was Manchester-born United academy graduate Danny Welbeck who scored the winning goal.

West Ham once had top-four ambitions of their own, but a run of just one win in 10 games since their 2-1 reverse to Arsenal in December has seen them fall to 10th in the Premier League table, at least 10 points behind the European places.

Injuries have played a role in their dip in form and one-time Arsenal target Winston Reid and Enner Valencia joined Andy Carroll on the sidelines either side of the club's trip to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp this week.

Reid strained a hamstring in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea and Valencia bizarrely cut his big toe quite severely when stepping on a broken cup at home.

James Collins and new signing Nene are expected to deputise and Joey O'Brien should start at right-back, with Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson ineligible.

Midfielder Alex Song will be a starter against his former employers, while Stewart Downing and Aaron Cresswell will be hoping to make good final impressions ahead of next week's England squad announcement.

Jack Wilshere is unlikely to figure for the Three Lions as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery. He and defender Gabriel Paulista are scheduled to return to training next week, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces a month out.

Also still unavailable for the Gunners are Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Mathieu Flamini. Aaron Ramsey continued his comeback with another cameo off the bench against United and may have to settle for a similar role this weekend.

Olivier Giroud was another substitute used that night, but is more likely to be recalled in a move which would see goalscorer Welbeck shifted out wide to play alongside Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in Giroud's creative supply line.


Form in Premier League: WLWWWW
Form in all competitions: WWLWWW

Possible starting lineup: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ozi, Sanchez, Welbeck, Giroud

West Ham:

Form in Premier League: LDDDLL
Form in all competitions: DDLDLL

Possible starting lineup: Adrian; O'Brien, Collins, Tomkins, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyate; Downing, Sakho, Nene

Sports Mole says: 3-0

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Eden Hazard of Chelsea turns away to celebrate after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match against West Ham on March 4, 2015
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