Manchester United and Arsenal face off for the first time this season after a week that saw both clubs engaged in wild, high-scoring league cap matches. Despite defensive concerns that are likely to pop-up in the wake of all those allowed goals, who are we kidding...Saturday is all about Robin Van Persie right?!
For the media and a chunk of the Arsenal fan base, the lead story surrounding this match will be RVP and his first match against his former club. This weekend's events will likely pail in comparison to when United visits Arsenal next year, but there will be travel fans of the Gunners and most of them will probably be offering RVP their restrained and reasonable opinions concerning his departure from Arsenal in the summer. Yeah right.
Whether or not RVP scores and how he plays in general isn't the most important element to this match. Instead, it's all about defense, or which team's defense decides to show up. Despite the fact that neither team's "first choice" back line or goalkeeper played in the mid-week, both of these sides have shown the propensity to be leaky at the back. Of course, both have also shown they can score goals. Things today might come down to which side does the best job of slowing down the other's attack...or maybe just who scores more goals.
Of course, when the table is seemingly set for an offensive smorgasbord, we usually get a dire scoreless draw. Perhaps that's a cynical view, but years of watching these match-ups between England's "biggest" teams has led me to tread carefully when it comes to anticipating a gripping and entertaining affair. By the way, I remember that the last time these two teams met United won 8-2.
Speaking of attacking play, Arsenal will be without leading scorer Gervinho who injured his ankle against QPR. The likely replacement is Theo Walcott after his hat trick against Reading. Then again, he played 120 minutes and it might be asking a lot of Walcott to be able to recover fully in four days. If Walcott can't go, expect Aaron Ramsey to get the start on the right side.
Arsenal have history working against them. They've lost one of the last 10 meetings between the clubs in all competitions and the last victory for the Gunners at Old Trafford came in 2006.
Manchester United injuries and suspensions
Arsenal injuries and suspensions
Gervinho is the only "new" injury for Arsenal and he'll be out three weeks after injuring his ankle against QPR. The rest of the various injuries have been known for awhile. Oxlade-Chamberlain is facing a fitness test to deterime his availability. For United, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are close to returning, but they're not expected to be ready for this weekend.
Match Date/Time: 1:45 p.m. local, 8:45 a.m. ET
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
TV: ESPN2 (U.S.), Sky Sports 2 (U.K.), TSN2 (Canada)
Online: ESPN3 (U.S.)