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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, December 19, 2014
LONDON---However many blips and
bumps Arsenal endures through the season
one outcome is a constant: finishing in
the Premier League s top four.
Arsenal has spent 17 consecutive seasons
among the elite, ensuring itself of a place
in the Champions League year after year.
Fans might be frustrated by the shortage of
silverware, but it s a level of predictable
consistency Liverpool would accept now.
When Brendan Rodgers steered Liverpool
back into the Champions League in May
after a five-year absence, the club hoped it
would be the start of a revival. Instead the
surprise runner-up finish in the Premier
League seems increasingly just that---a sur-
prise. And probably a one-off, for now.
Preparing to host Arsenal on Sunday, Liv-
erpool is 11th in the standings, already 18
points behind leader Chelsea after losing
3-0 at Manchester United last weekend.
Arsenal is only sixth, but the London club
is five points in front of Liverpool and just
two from fourth place.
For two clubs with aspirations above their
current status, Arsenal appears to be only
one equipped to achieve much this season.
Rodgers, though, is putting a brave face on
Liverpool s struggles.
"Despite the result at Old Trafford, I saw
moments in our game that I thought were
good," Rodgers said. "We created a lot of
chances, so I can certainly see signs of us
getting back to where we were. We know
there s a way to go.
"I think slowly we re getting there...there
are a lot of players adapting."
And there are players out injured still---
including striker Daniel Sturridge---which
is adding to the loss felt by Luis Suarez join-
ing Barcelona in July.
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott could
return, though, at Anfield on Sunday. The
25-year-old Walcott, who has made only
two appearances this season following a
long-term knee injury, is set to resume full
training from a groin problem.
"He is back in training today, but only
today," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
said. "I might take him (to Liverpool), I
don t know yet until he is back to full train-
ing. Let s see."
Here is a look at some other things to
look for to in round 17 of the Premier League:
At the top
Stoke has already beaten Arsenal and
Manchester City this season, so a trip to
Britannia Stadium could pose some problems
for leader Chelsea on Monday. But a trio of
wins over the last week---in the Champions
League, Premier League and then League
Cup---show the resilience of Jose Mourinho s
"This team has the potential and the
quality to be one of the best in Chelsea s
history if it can prove it by winning trophies,"
goalkeeper Petr Cech said.
City, which is three points behind Chelsea
in second place, has had the week off due
to its earlier League Cup elimination. Manuel
Pellegrini s side can provisionally knock
Chelsea off top place by beating Crystal
Palace by four goals on Saturday.
Manchester United will be chasing a sev-
enth successive victory when the third-
place team plays at Aston Villa on Saturday.
With each week, Louis van Gaal is banishing
memories of David Moyes dismal season
in charge, and showing he can return United
to the top four.
West Ham has assumed Southampton s
tag as the surprise team in the top four.
Southampton has endured a disappointing
month, losing four consecutive league games
before being humiliated in the League Cup
on Tuesday by third-tier side Sheffield Unit-
ed. It has another difficult match Saturday
at Everton, whose manager Roberto Martinez
is well aware of the south-coast side s qual-
"They are a joy to watch and very well
structured," Martinez said. "Ronald Koeman
has brought some players that have adapted
to our league very quickly. They are a team
based on attacking football and are very
talented and full of flair."
It has been a mixed fortnight for Roma and
coach Rudi Garcia.
After being knocked out the Champions
League, Roma cut the gap to Serie A leader Juven-
tus to one point last weekend. However, that 1-
0 win over Genoa proved costly for Garcia as he
has been banned for two matches for allegedly
attempting to assault a steward. Roma has vowed
to appeal the ban and it remains to be seen
whether Garcia, who was named French coach
of the year last week, can take his place on the
touchlines for the last match of the 2014 against
AC Milan on Saturday.
"Following the unfounded accusations which
have been levelled against me and the resulting
sanctions, I denounce this intolerable attack on
my honor and my reputation," Garcia said. "I
will fight with every means available to me to
defend myself against this injustice and this lie."
Juventus visits Cagliari on Thursday in its last
fixture before the winter break, while Inter Milan
hosts Lazio on Sunday night in the final Serie
A fixture of 2014. Bottom club Parma also plays
Thursday, away at Napoli, with coach Roberto
Donadoni hanging on to his job after 12 defeats
in 14 matches and a recent change in ownership
of the club.
Here are some things to know about this week-
end s matches:
AC Milan travels to the capital in confident
mood and looking to underline its bid for a Cham-
pions League spot.
New coach Filippo Inzaghi appears to be settling
in well and enthusiasm is growing in the red half
of Milan, with one defeat in five matches.
Milan is sixth, two points behind a cluster of
three teams---Lazio, Sampdoria and Genoa---all
on 26 points.
One of the surprising stars of Milan s season
so far has been midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura,
who signed from Atalanta in the final hours of
the summer transfer window.
"We ll try for third spot," said Bonaventura,
who scored in last weekend s 2-0 win over Napoli.
"We have a squad that is of the right level, with
"We have to be ambitious. The match against
Roma will show us at what point we re at in our
Arsenal's top four
---a target for Liverpool
Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during
the English League Cup soccer quarterfinal match between AFC Bournemouth and
Liverpool at Goldsands Stadium, Bournemouth, England, Wednesday. AP PHOTO
Roma looks to
end on a high after
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