Contrasting fortunes for Manchester United, Arsenal make for crucial top four Premier League clash

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku and Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette will play a big role in the crucial clash at the Emirates Stadium. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2019

Contrasting fortunes for Manchester United, Arsenal make for crucial top four Premier League clash

  • Solskjaer is positive Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford can strike up a fruitful partnership
  • Momentum is on United’s side, but they face a far tougher run-in than the Gunners

LONDON: After the miracle of Paris, Manchester United have no time for a hangover when they travel to Arsenal on Sunday if their chances of even qualifying for next season’s Champions League are not to suffer significant damage.
Should United repeat their 3-1 success at the Emirates in the FA Cup six weeks ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rack up a perfect 10 away wins since taking caretaker charge to make a seemingly irrefutable case to be handed the job on a permanent basis.
The highlight was beating free-spending Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in dramatic circumstances on Wednesday to progress to the quarterfinals of the Champions League on away goals and erase the consequences of Solskjaer’s only defeat in 17 games in charge.
United have made up an 11-point gap to the Premier League top four under the Norwegian, but their Champions League status for next season is still far from assured.
The Red Devils lead Arsenal by just a solitary point and a two-point advantage over sixth-placed Chelsea could be wiped out by the Blues’ game in hand at home to Brighton.
Momentum is on United’s side, but they face a far tougher run-in than the Gunners with title chasing Manchester City and Chelsea still to visit Old Trafford.
Solskjaer is positive Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford can strike up a fruitful partnership after both scored in the French capital in midweek.
Rashford started Solskjaer’s reign as the preferred option up front, but Lukaku has forced his way back into the side, scoring twice in each of his last three matches.
“Of course we played with two up front, with him (Lukaku) and Rashy against PSG,” said Solskjaer.
“They might form a very nice partnership together, because I wouldn’t like to be a defender having them two running at me,” he joked.
Solskjaer also has more options on Sunday after 10 first-team players missed Wednesday. Paul Pogba is back from suspension, while Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera could be fit to return from injury.
By contrast, the visit of Solskjaer’s men to the Emirates is Arsenal’s last against top six opposition.
“I don’t think it is definitive, but we need to show and push on Sunday to take more possibility to finish in the top four,” said Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
The Spaniard also has reason to be positive. Arsenal have not been beaten at the Emirates in the Premier League since City’s visit on the opening day of the season and have won their last eight home league games.
“We played against a big team and at some moments showed we can fight and battle with them, but we lost and that is the reality,” added Emery on the FA Cup tie between the pair.
“We need fresh players, players with energy, we need quality, we need good combinations, and we need the players who start on the bench after they can help us on the pitch and deliver a big performance as well.”
That suggests Emery could make major changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday.
Alexandre Lacazette looks set to return up front after he was suspended for the trip to France in midweek, meaning Arsenal’s top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang faces being benched once more.
Aubameyang missed a late penalty that would have brought victory over Tottenham in the north London derby last weekend after coming on as a substitute and Emery has defended his tendency to start just one of his two star strikers.
“They need to accept the decision. I am finding the best decisions for the team,” said the former PSG coach.
“Sometimes I am not happy with them both when their performances are not good when they’re both playing, but I am very consistent in our work to take the best decision and to give them the best performance for us, whether they’re playing together or alone.”


Fury and Wilder weigh in big for their big heavyweight fight

Updated 22 February 2020

Fury and Wilder weigh in big for their big heavyweight fight

  • The two unbeaten heavyweights meet in a showdown just 14 months after they fought to a draw in a dramatic fight in Los Angeles

LAS VEGAS: Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder made one last appearance Friday before their big heavyweight title fight, weighing in and taunting each other before a raucous crowd at the MGM Grand arena.
Wilder weighed 231 pounds, the heaviest of his career, for his 11th title defense. Fury, meanwhile, tipped the scales at 273 pounds, just 3 pounds short of his heaviest ever, too, for Saturday night’s rematch.
The fighters jawed at each other from a distance after getting on the scales in the arena. Nevada boxing officials ruled they would not have a faceoff after pushing each other at the final press conference on Wednesday.
Thousands of fans, most of them supporting Fury, jammed the arena, waiting for several hours for the fighters to make their brief appearance on the scales. Though separated, the two fighters jawed at each other, much like they did at the press conference promoting the pay-per-view bout.
``I just told him, `24 hours, 24 hours,’’’ Wilder said. ``He’s nervous, nervous energy as always.’’
The two unbeaten heavyweights meet in a showdown just 14 months after they fought to a draw in a dramatic fight in Los Angeles. The fight is arguably the biggest heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis demolished Mike Tyson in 2002, and both fighters could make some $40 million if the pay-per-view sells well.

Wilder weighed in at 231 pounds. (AFP)

Fury weighed in 16.5 pounds heavier than the first fight, and just 3 pounds short of what he weighed in his first comeback fight in 2018 after being out of the ring with drug and alcohol problems. Wilder was also heavier than expected, weighing 18.5 pounds more than the first fight.
``The weight’s not a problem,’’ the 6-foot-9 Fury said. ``It’s 273 pounds of pure British beef.’’
A fight that promises intriguing matchups matches two fighters with claims to titles — Fury’s is the mythical lineal crown — in a rematch of their draw a little more than a year ago. In that fight, Fury dominated the boxing but Wilder knocked him down in the ninth and 12th rounds before the judges scored it a draw.
Fury (29-0-1, 20 knockouts) predicted in the weeks leading up to the fight he would weigh about 270 pounds. He said he added the weight because he intends to go after Wilder from the opening bell in the rematch to try and score an early knockout.
``At the end of the day, we’re heavyweights,’’ Wilder said. ``So it doesn’t really matter about the weight.’’
In addition to the weight, Fury will have to deal with the possibility of the cut suffered around his right eye in his last fight will reopen. He usually trains without headgear but used it for the rematch because of the 47 stitches it took to sew the cut up after his hard-fought win in September against Sweden’s Otto Wallin.
Wilder (42-0-1, 41 knockouts) is making the 11th defense of the crown he won in 2015, the same year Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko to win a piece of the title. Fury didn’t fight for more than two years after that, giving up his crown as he descended into mental and drug problems and his weight ballooned to 375 pounds.