Date: 19th March 2010 at 3:35pm
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For the second week in a row, Arsenal play in the Saturday evening kickoff. After the trip to Hull last weekend, the Gunners host West Ham at Ashburton Grove. Unfortunately that means ESPN will broadcast the match. For those not lucky enough to be going to the Grove on Saturday, you will be forced into listening to Jon Champions’ expert punditry. At least Cesc Fabregas will be back.

Vital Quotes:

Here is Alex Song describing his reaction to the Bendtner goal at Hull last weekend.

‘I was like a crazy man,’ said Song. ‘I jumped everywhere.

‘I was watching it with my son and he did not know what was happening – but when Nicklas scored, I just said ‘yeeeeeessssssss’.

‘It is very difficult to watch your friends when you don’t play, but I had confidence in my team. We have the players to come in and do well.

‘Now we are in a strong position and we will fight in the games that are left.’

Arsenal Team News:

Of course the biggest news is that Cesc Fabregas is back, but perhaps the injury situation with Gallas is almost as important. Arsene described his calf injury as ‘endless’, and the French centreback has an 80% chance of being out of the first leg against Barcelona. With his contract set to run out at the end of the summer, suspicions are starting to creep in.

Anyways, Rosicky and Song also will return to to the squad. We might be able to play our first choice midfield trio (Song, Diaby, Cesc) for the first time since the 1-0 win over Liverpool in early February.

Predicted Starting XI: Almunia, Eboue, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Arshavin, Walcott, Bendtner

Player to watch: Theo Walcott

Two weeks ago I picked Nik Bendtner to be the home player to watch, and oh boy, what is there to really say about that choice? I hope I don’t jinx Theo in the same manner.

Walcott brought some much needed directness off the substitute bench last week, and we didn’t look like scoring in that second half until Wenger brought him on. I expect him to grab another goal in front of the home crowd.

West Ham Team News:

Zola will have Mark Noble and Herita Ilunga to call on during Saturday’s match, as both returned to training this week. However, Portugese international, Manuel da Costa, will be suspended for a straight red card against Chelsea’s reserves in Febuary.

Possible Starting XI: Green, Upson, Tomkins, Spector, Daprela, Parker, Behrami, Kovac, Dyer, Diamanti, Cole

Player to watch: Carlton Cole

Carlton Cole will be a danger all night. Sol and Vermaelen need to stay tight on him and deny him the opportunity to link up with West Ham’s midfielders. If we don’t win the first ball, win the second one. Hopefully we don’t gift Cole another goal.

Match Facts & Stats

This is the 123rd meeting between these sides. Arsenal have won 51 to West Ham’s 33

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five league matches against West Ham, although the last two were draws

West Ham have not won any of their last nine Premier League London derbies, and they haven’t won a league game away from home since the opening day of the season.

Ref Watch:

Martin Atkinson will be the head official for this match.

Match Prediction:

Couple the return of Cesc with the squad’s determination, and I think we’ll be too much for the East Londoners. I’ll go with another 4-1 loss for West Ham in a weeks time.

Next Fixtures:

27/3 (Sat) – Birmingham (a) – Premier League

31/3 (Wed) – Barcelona (h) – Champions League

3/4 (Sat) – Wolverhampton (h) – Premier League