Arsenal lose Ozil and Ramsey’s comeback delayed for vital Spurs game

None can afford to lose tomorrow in their pursuit of either the title or a top-four finish and Uefa Champions League football next season.

Aaron Ramsey was doing well for Arsenal before the injury on Boxing Day but is pursued fit again. Paul Gilham / Getty Images
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Two fiercely intense local rivalries with even more spice than usual take centre stage in the Premier League this weekend when Manchester United and Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur play Arsenal.

The teams occupy four of the top six positions in the table and none can afford to lose tomorrow in their pursuit of either the title or a top-four finish and Uefa Champions League football next season.

The other two places in the top six are filled by leaders Chelsea, who travel to Aston Villa, and Manchester City, who are at FA Cup semi-finalists Hull City.

A win for Chelsea today would lift them to 69 points and put them 10 clear of Liverpool and Arsenal who are not in action until tomorrow.

Manchester City, who were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona on Wednesday, are nine points behind Chelsea with three matches in hand. Chelsea will have eight games left after this weekend, City 11.

Tottenham start the weekend in fifth place on 53 points with United sixth on 48 and with a game in hand on Spurs.

Judging by their entwined histories, more than a century of loathing between the fans, dramas and controversies – even before this season’s earlier meetings are taken into account – events at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford are likely to overshadow all else.

Both Spurs and Arsenal have plenty to prove in their third meeting of the season following Arsenal’s 1-0 league win in September and their 2-0 victory in the FA Cup third round at the Emirates in January.

Arsenal, knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday by Bayern Munich, go to White Hart Lane without their record signing Mesut Ozil.

The German injured a hamstring in Munich and, according to manager Arsene Wenger, will be out for several weeks, although he expects Aaron Ramsey to return for the first time since Boxing Day.

Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-finals with a 4-1 victory over Everton last weekend and retain an outside chance of winning the title, but their league form has dipped lately with just one win from their past four matches.

Spurs, who are also chasing silverware in the Europa League, are looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Benfica 3-1 in a first-leg final 16 match on Thursday.

Their latest Premier League outing was a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Saturday following which manager Tim Sherwood strongly criticised his players for showing a lack of commitment after defender Younes Kaboul was sent off and all four goals were conceded in the last 30 minutes.

Kaboul’s red card was rescinded by the FA so he can play tomorrow and there will be no doubting Spurs’ commitment against Arsenal, who will be playing their 999th match under manager Arsene Wenger.

Said Christian Eriksen after the Benfica game: “I think everybody agrees [it was a disappointing night],” said the Denmark international, whose fine free-kick had made it 2-1 in the second half.

“I think my goal gave us a boost but unfortunately only for a few minutes. Then they got the ball again and then we had to run even more.

“They played well and they played maybe how we should play, but we didn’t.

“But we were just not good enough on the ball. When we got it, we couldn’t keep it and they were really good on the ball.”