May 4, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT
With Everton’s loss to Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League – so will they go easy on West Brom when they visit the Emirates today? (Watch live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
The Albion likely wouldn’t object to an easy three points. After picking up seven points from their last three matches, they’ve moved up to 16th, four points above the drop. Relegation doesn’t look likely, as West Brom still have a game in hand, but beating Arsenal would guarantee the Baggies’ safety. Plus, it would lift them over rivals Aston Villa once more, which is always important in the Midlands.
But Arsenal still have a (very) slim chance of reaching third. The Gunners are certain of Champions League play, but if they overtake Chelsea, they’ll skip qualifying and go straight to the group stages. This hope will only be realized if Arsenal win their final two matches and Chelsea lose to both Norwich and Cardiff, but hey, it’s fun to dream, right, Gunners fans?
After last week’s 1-0 victory over West Ham, Pepe Mel makes just two changes to the Albion side. Steven Reid, injured last weekend, is out, as is Billy Jones. Diego Lugano comes in to reinforce the defense, while James Morrison steps into midfield. It looks like Mel’s chosen to go with a back three – are the Baggies aiming for just a point at the Emirates?
Abou Diaby makes his return to Arsenal after thirteen months out, starting the match on the bench. After last week’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle, there’s just one change for Arsène Wenger. Mathieu Flamini steps in for Aaron Ramsey, who was fantastic in his return last week after four months out with injury. Looks like Wenger wants to make sure the midfielder stays fit for the FA Cup final.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Diaby, Sanogo
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Berahino
Subs: Myhill, Anichebe, O’Neil, Sinclair, Vydra, McAuley, Yacob
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