Hull v Arsenal, Premier League, March 13, 2010
With the Premier League title race heading for the home stretch, Arsenalâ€™s visit to Hull could be a pivotal game on a weekend when Manchester United and Chelsea are at home in games they are expected to win. Hull are deep in the relegation mire, and this has the potential to be a game full of hunger and desire. (4.32 to be Draw/Arsenal.)
The Gunners have a fixture list that on paper should provide few problems and the pundits are beginning to declare them potential title winners having been written off on more than a couple of occasions. (Arsenal are 3.60 to win the league.) The 5-0 demolition of Porto was a reminder of just how impressive this Arsenal side can be and the likes of Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin were excellent in the absence of Cesc Fabregas.
The Arsenal captain and talisman is rated as highly likely to miss this match according to Arsene Wenger and there are also doubts surrounding Sol Campbell and Bacary Sagna. Mikael Silvestre and Emmanuel Eboue could therefore be forced to fill in at the back and there will probably also be a start for Denilson with Alexandre Song completing his suspension for yellow cards.
Since losing at Chelsea in February, Arsenal have won their last four Premier League games and with their other two rivals set to face off in April, they are well placed to make a late charge for the league. The win at Stoke was lauded following Aaron Ramseyâ€™s injury and this game at Hull could tell us a lot more about the Gunners having faced weak opposition since the late victory at the Britannia.
Nicklas Bendtner has been the centre of attention in the past week. The big Dane went from the ridiculous to the sublime with a horror show against Burnley and then a hat-trick versus Porto. In his last five games (including a Denmark international) Bendtner has scored six goals and he will be licking his lips at facing a Hull side that have the second worst defence in the Premier League.
Hull will be looking to bounce back from a chastening 5-1 defeat at Goodison Park last Sunday and Burnleyâ€™s draw with Stoke in midweek now means they are second bottom after three defeats in successive games. Confidence had been high at the start of last month with a home draw against Chelsea and a win over Manchester City which had suggested the Tigers would move away from the drop zone. (1.56 to be under 2.5 goals, 2.18 to be over.)
Phil Brown will no doubt have his side well up for this one. Talisman Jimmy Bullard played for just over an hour at Everton last week and Tom Cairney looks to be a real find with his goal at Goodison the only bright spot. Despite the recent reverses, with the likes of Jozy Altidore and Amr Zaki available Hull should get on the scoresheet against Arsenal. The question is likely to be whether they can suffocate the Gunners attack and Boaz Myhill may be called upon on a regular basis to stop Bendtner, Arshavin and co.
There is also little needle between these two teams following the FA Cup replay last season when Phil Brown accused Fabregas of spitting on his assistant Brian Horton and there was plenty of handbags in Hullâ€™s 3-0 reverse at the Emirates in December.
In that match, Arsenal struggled without Fabregas and Geovanni saw a penalty saved by Manuel Almunia at 1-0. It would be no surprise if Hull put up a real fight on Saturday tea time, but all eyes will be on whether they get amongst the Arsenal side following the Ramsey-Shawcross incident at Stoke.
This looks to be a real test of Arsenalâ€™s title credentials.
101gg predicts: Hull 1 â€“ Arsenal 2 (5.90)