Seeking a significant push up the Premier League table and a bit of revenge, Arsenal hosts Stoke City Sunday at Emirates Stadium. The Potters last squashed Arsenal 3-2 on Dec. 6, but Arsene Wenger’s side might have a leg up with forward Mesut Ozil set to return.
A major contributor to Germany’s World Cup victory last summer, Ozil suffered a serious knee injury on Oct. 5 against Chelsea, and his lack of production since Wenger acquired him from Real Madrid in 2013 has frustrated Arsenal supporters.
However Wenger has full faith in the player he secured for £42 million.
"Today he looks hungry and is working extremely hard, pushing himself to the limit of what you can absorb physically to come back. He is ready. He is hungry,” Wenger said to Sky Sports.
"He is an exceptional football player. He always gives you continuity in your game. He's a very creative player and ideally you want all your best players available."
Ozil’s return comes at a critical juncture in Arsenal’s season. With Southampton facing Manchester United later in the day, a win over Stoke could propel Arsenal into fourth on the table. The Saints rang in the New Year by snapping Arsenal’s five-match undefeated streak.
Ozil can specifically free up forward and leading scorer Alexis Sanchez, who’s scored 10 goals on the year but only once in the last six Premier League matches.
Arsenal will face a Stoke side eager to rise up from the middle of the Premier League pack, and one that’s played quite well against the league’s best squads. The Potters are 11th on the table, but only moved down a position after Newcastle United drew with Manchester City Saturday.
The Potters nearly derailed third-place Manchester United twice this season, and would have won the first meeting on Dec. 2 if it weren’t for David De Gea’s heroics.
And Stoke’s lost only once in their last six matches, a 2-0 letdown to Chelsea that was much closer than the score suggested and a standout match for keeper Asmir Begovic. Notching four saves against Chelsea’s formidable attack, the Bosnia and Herzegovina star has recorded 39 saves and four clean sheets on the season.
Start Time: Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at NBC Live Extra here.
Prediction: Arsenal over Stoke, 2-1