Arsenal v Sunderland preview: Alexis Sanchez a doubt as Gunners seek top-four lifeline
Last Updated: 16/05/17 11:06pm
Arsenal could be without Alexis Sanchez for Tuesday's crucial Premier League clash with Sunderland, live on Sky Sports.
The Chile forward took a kick to the thigh in Saturday's 4-1 win at Stoke and faces a fitness test ahead of kick-off, despite boss Arsene Wenger admitting he is "so keen" to play.
Wenger's resurgent side have have won six of their last seven games - including an extra-time victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final - and must see off the relegated Black Cats if they are to take their late bid to finish in the top four to the final day.
The Gunners need Liverpool to fail to beat Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday to realistically stand any chance of maintaining Wenger's record of never finishing outside of the top four in a full season at the helm.
Asked about their chances of gate-crashing the Champions League places, Wenger said: "Our chances depend on winning our games. We have 69 points, we can get to 75.
"That will be four points more than last year, so let's focus on finishing as well as we can. We have created momentum again. We had a difficult period and we recovered from it. The only chance we have to be in the top four is to win our games."
Sanchez faces a late check but Laurent Koscielny could also miss out after a recurrence of an ongoing calf
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a certain absentee and faces a race to be fit for the FA Cup final after hobbling off against Southampton with a hamstring injury.
Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe are doubts for relegated Sunderland's Premier League trip to Arsenal on Tuesday evening.
Denayer (thigh) and Anichebe (hamstring) both limped off during the first half of Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Swansea and did not train on Sunday.
George Honeyman is also struggling to shake off a back injury sustained when defender Lamine Kone fell on him in training last week, but fellow midfielder Lee Cattermole (Achilles) and full-back Bryan Oviedo - who was named among the substitutes at the weekend following a hamstring injury - are pushing for returns.
Arsenal have never lost a home Premier League match against Sunderland (W10 D5 L0).
Sunderland have won just one of their last 26 Premier League fixtures against the Gunners, this coming in a 1-0 win back in November 2009 (W1 D9 L16).
Olivier Giroud has scored four times in his last four games in all competitions against Sunderland, including twice from the bench with his first two touches in the reverse fixture.
If Giroud scores, he'll be the third player to hit 50 goals at the Emirates Stadium in all competitions (after Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott), while the Frenchman is also just two goals short of becoming the 19th player to score 100 goals in all competitions for Arsenal (currently 98).
David Moyes has lost 15 times to Wenger in the Premier League, his most defeats against a single manager in the competition.
Indeed, if the Gunners win it will be Wenger's 20th victory in all competitions against Moyes - more than any other manager he's faced with Arsenal.
Arsenal have lost just one of their last 16 Premier League matches at the Emirates Stadium (W12 D3 L1), this coming against Watford (1-2) in January.
The Gunners haven't conceded a single goal in their last three Premier League games at home - they haven't kept four clean sheets in a row at the Emirates Stadium in the competition since February 2014 (five in a row).
Sunderland have failed to score in 10 of their last 15 Premier League away matches.
The Black Cats have now failed to score in 19 Premier League games overall this season, more than any other side - they last failed to score in more in a league season in 2002/03 (20 games).
I watched Sunderland against Swansea on Saturday, and I must say it wasn't very good. The last home game of the season and they didn't perform at all.
I'm going for a comfortable Arsenal win. They're on good form, but whereas in the past it has counted for squeezing in the top four, it looks to be all for nothing at the moment.
Sanchez is on fire, and he has a track record or tearing these sorts of teams apart. I can't see anything but an easy Arsenal win.
PAUL PREDICTS: 4-0 (7/1 with Sky Bet)
Wenger is now 4/1 to lead his side to a top-four finish, with Liverpool and Man City both well odds-on.
Alexis Sanchez (9/4) is followed by Olivier Giroud (5/2) in the first goalscorer betting, while Jermain Defoe is considered the visitors' main threat at 9/1 to net first.