Stoke preview.

With the news that Arsenal’s pre tax profits have risen to £35.2 million proving that all is well off the field, attention returns to more pressing matters as Arsenal travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City.

The Gunners have lost on each of their past two visits to the Britannia, but will be encouraged by their mini revival since successive reality checks against Man Utd and Chelsea.

The team that lines up tomorrow evening will bare little resemblance to that which was bullied out of the FA Cup at the beginning of January. Cesc Fabregas and Denilson were the only two recognised first team players who started as Arsene Wenger’s side were beaten 3-1 that day. With Arsenal’s title challenge rejuvenated as a result of Chelsea and Uniteds recent shortcomings, you can be sure that Wenger will field the best eleven players at his disposal.

One player who may not be available is Eduardo. The Brazilian will be assessed on Saturday to see if he has fully recovered from a hamstring injury. The game has definitely come too soon for Andrey Arshavin, with the forward also struggling with hamstring problems.  With William Gallas still absent, you can expect Sol Campbell to partner Thomas Vermaelen as Arsenal look to negate the physical threat of their hosts.

Much has been written about the Gunners’ favourable run in, but as Wenger has warned, the teams at the wrong end of the table are fighting for their lives, and will by no means be easy opposition.

Tony Pullis’ side are one of only a few that are neither battling for a place in Europe or fighting to maintain their Premier League status. Although Rory Delap’s long throws are always afforded much attention when people talk about Stoke, they have shown on several occasions this season (including the 3-1 FA Cup win over Arsenal) that they are much more than a one dimensional side. The home side will be boosted not only by their mid week extra time victory over Man City, but also by the return of Andy Wilkinson and Abdoulaye Faye from suspension.

With Man Utd facing Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final on Sunday, a win in Staffordshire would see Arsenal close the gap between themselves and the champions to just two points.


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