Walcott eyes United scalp
Theo Walcott has urged his Arsenal team-mates to inflict a first English Premier League defeat of the season on Manchester United.
The title rivals, who enter the weekend placed first and second in the table, cross swords at Old Trafford on Monday night. It is a mouthwatering showdown between two sides who have looked vulnerable this season despite occupying lofty positions in the table. United remain in the hunt despite the widespread belief they have performed only adequately, but Walcott is concerned what might happen if they hit top form.
"United have not lost in the league yet, so hopefully we can be the first to do that," said the England winger. "They are not playing the best, but these are the games where they will step up. Yet if they are not playing well and still are second in the league, then we don't want to catch them on a good day.
"But we have just got to go there and play with no fear, express ourselves and then the best performance will come out," he went on. "We need to get something there and the way we are playing away from home, we can beat anyone."
United winger Nani views Arsenal as a bigger title threat than Chelsea and claims Monday represents the acid test of his side's trophy ambitions. "Chelsea have lost a few games and drawn some and their confidence looks a bit low," said Nani. "But Arsenal have been winning and being top of the league gives you great confidence."
Freefalling Chelsea travel to Tottenham on Sunday with Didier Drogba bracing the Premier League for the backlash from the Blues' dramatic slump. Two victories from the last eight matches in all competitions has plunged Stamford Bridge into crisis with the club facing Spurs, United and Arsenal in their next three games
"It's not getting any easier because we have Tottenham next," said Drogba. "Maybe everyone will expect us to lose on Sunday, but it could be different. I see Tottenham as genuine title rivals now. They are having a good season and there is no reason why they can't challenge.
"Chelsea used to beat them regularly but things change, that's life, but it is up to us to make it happen again," he added. "Obviously these three games are not coming at the right time for us, but maybe these matches will change the situation we're in now if we win them. It's a difficult moment for us, but this is the kind of thing that can happen to many teams and it's rare for Chelsea to have a period like this."
Alan Pardew oversees his first match as Newcastle manager at home to Liverpool. "The brief for me is to consolidate and stay in the division," said Pardew. "We're in a great position for a team that's just been promoted, but we've got to kick on."
Aston Villa are hoping to halt their slide when they host midlands rivals West Brom while Everton and Wigan, both looking for form, meet at Goodison Park. Fulham desperately need a win against Sunderland to ease their relegation fears while mid-table Stoke and Blackpool clash. Manchester City will be hoping to capitalise on any slip up by their titles rivals when they travel to West Ham.
Completing the fixtures, Bolton host Blackburn and Birmingham travel to Wolves.