A refreshed Arsenal outfit will aim to keep the pressure on leaders Manchester United when they visit West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Arsenal’s trip to the Hawthorns comes after the Gunners fell 2-0 to United in the FA Cup quarter-finals seven days ago – the Gunners’ longest respite in over a month.
Manager Arsene Wenger has often rued Arsenal’s crowded fixture schedule, not the least when he saw his title ambitions slimmed from four trophies to one following their FA Cup exit, defeat to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final and Champions League elimination at the hands of Barcelona.
But after a week of rest, the Gunners will come out determined to maintain or narrow the three-point gap that separates them from United at the top of the Premier League table.
It falls to West Brom to bear the brunt of Arsenal’s renewed focus.
Under the tutelage of new boss Roy Hodgson, West Brom have scrambled their way out of the drop zone with a four-match unbeaten run in the top flight.
Admittedly, though, only the most recent result – a 3-1 win at Birmingham two weeks earlier – saw the Baggies take three points.
With the relegation places just one point away, West Brom can ill-afford to drop points at home, but containing an Arsenal outfit that has scored a second-highest 57 times this term (six less than United) seems an improbable task.
Except that it is not, as Sunderland proved in the last round.
The Black Cats held Arsenal to a shock 0-0 draw at the Emirates, with Wenger again blaming the club’s crowded schedule for their lacklustre display.
Given the Baggies have conceded a second-worst 54 goals this season (four less than Blackpool), it seems reasonable to expect lightning will not strike twice for unlucky West Brom.
On the injury front, this game looks to have come too soon for West Brom midfielder Graeme Dorrens, whose ankle injury will likely keep him out, while team-mate Youssouf Mulumbu is struggling with a hamstring complaint and is in doubt.
Wenger has a number of casualties in his squad, with captain Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) undoubtedly the biggest.
Defender Johan Djourou’s season is over after he dislocated his shoulder against United, while Alex Song (knee), Theo Walcott (ankle) and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (finger) are all unavailable.