Two beleaguered coaches meet Sunday, as Arsenal hosts Sunderland at Emirates Stadium in a battle of underachieving squads.
Arsene Wenger and Steve Bruce are both on the hot seat, as their respected clubs have struggled in the 2011-2012 Premier League season. Both Arsenal and Sunderland are barely above last place in the table, and there are loud rumblings from the fan bases.
Wenger will have Tomas Rosicky, Laurent Koscielny, and Johann Djourou available for the match, but Arsenal is still without Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby, and Bacary Sagna. It seems Wenger is always missing key players to injury, and this season is no different.
The Gunners are coming off a loss to north London rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane, 2-1. After the thumping the club took to Manchester United earlier this season, there is little room for poor results going forward, so the pressure is on Wenger to get Arsenal out of its current hole.
Arsenal will travel to France to play Marseille in a Champions League match on Wednesday, but for now their focus will be on gaining ground in the Premier League.
Sunderland are coming a 2-2 home result to West Bromwich, and a 2-1 defeat to Norwich City. Bruce has his share of absentees, as well. For a club that could use some good luck, they aren't getting much.
Forward Nicklas Bendtner will be inactive since he is on loan from Arsenal. Meanwhile, defender Titus Bramble is suspended due to his recent arrest for sexual assault and drug possession. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon, defender Phil Bardsley, and forwards Fraizer Campbell and Connor Wickham are also sidelined.
With the exception of a 4-0 victory over Stoke City, the Black Cats have struggled to score all season. During one stretch, Sunderland went three straight matches without a goal. Without Bendtner, Campbell, and Wickham, the club's attack may have their work cut out for them on the road.
The Black Cats do have a promising young South Korean striker, Ji Dong-Won, who will be called up on to pressure the Arsenal defense. The 20-year-old has scored eight goals in 13 appearances for South Korea.
The last time these two clubs played at Emirates Stadium was in September 2010 and Sunderland earned a 1-1 result.
PREDICTION: Arsenal will attack from the start, and will get on the score board early, as Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, and Gervinho are due for productive games. The Black Cats will get few opportunities as Ahmed Elmohamady and Sebastian Larsson will be thwarted by Per Mertesacker, who has grown more comfortable with Arsenal. Sunderland appear vulnerable based on their recent performances, and Arsenal are due for a big match, and finally get it. Gunner fans are desperate for Arsenal to put together a great game, and Wenger's squad won't disappoint.
PREDICTED SCORE: Arsenal 4, Sunderland 1.
D: Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs
M: Song, Arteta, Ramsey
F: Walcott, Gervinho, Van Persie
D: O'Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson
M: Gardner, Cattermole, Sessegnon
F: Larsson, Elmohamady, Ji Dong-Won