London: Arsenal have the chance to return to the Premier League’s summit when they get the weekend programme underway with a lunchtime visit to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
With Manchester United not playing Tottenham Hotspur until Sunday, Arsenal can reclaim the top spot they lost to Alex Ferguson’s team two weeks ago.
However, a victory is by no means certain against a Bolton team just as desperate for points in their fight against relegation.
Defeat for Sam Allardyce’s side, combined with a West Ham United victory at Manchester City on Sunday, would leave them just one point above the drop zone.
Arsenal bucked their recent poor away form with a professional 2-0 win at Middlesbrough last week — a ground where most of the other leading teams had come to grief this season.
They will have to display the same sort of resolution against a Bolton team who have responded to the threat of relegation superbly in recent weeks.
Five wins and three draws from their last 10 games have left Allardyce delighted with the efforts of his multinational squad.
They will not be overwhelmed by Arsenal either, having gone close to claiming a point from the league game at Highbury in September.
Nwankwo Kanu’s injury-time goal secured a 2-1 win for Arsenal but TV showed the goal to be offside, which Allardyce has not forgotten.
“Fair decisions for both sides is all you ask for as a manager,” he said this week.
Arsenal midfielder and captain Patrick Vieira is still not fit for a return from a knee injury.
“Patrick is still out and I think Leeds (United at home on May 4) will be too early a target,” manager Arsene Wenger said.
Campbell loses appeal
Meanwhile, centre-back Sol Campbell has lost his appeal against a four-match ban for being sent off against Manchester United last week, the English Football Association said.
The ban will start on April 30 and Campbell will therefore miss the FA Cup final against Southampton and the final three league games of the season.
His loss will be a blow to Arsenal’s hopes of repeating last season’s Double, but Frenchman Pascal Cygan gave probably his most impressive performance of the season at Middlesbrough to ease Wenger’s defensive concerns.
“He was outstanding,” Wenger said. “Every time I have played him he has done very well.”
Cygan played in place of Martin Keown but the England man looks to have recovered from a hamstring strain and should start alongside Campbell.