Mikel Arteta has backed his title-chasing Arsenal side to handle a busy schedule as they prepare to visit Fulham following the return of their midweek European commitments.
Arsenal claimed a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie with Sporting CP on Thursday, having preserved their five-point lead at the Premier League summit with last week’s thrilling 3-2 win over Bournemouth.
Ahead of Sunday’s trip to Craven Cottage, Arteta discussed the importance of preparing well as the Gunners’ fixture list becomes more congested.
“It’s just about making sure that we are, first of all, prepared to play three times in a week, and we are mentally and physically ready to compete at the level required,” he said.
“We’ve been away, we’ve been travelling, but we are playing for the Premier League so you have to be ready to do that.
“We have a few players in contention, and hopefully soon we’ll have a picture of who is available and who is not.”
Fulham entered the weekend seventh in the table despite Monday’s disappointing derby defeat at Brentford, though the Cottagers have not beaten Arsenal since a 2-1 home victory in January 2012.
Asked if Fulham can upset the leaders, boss Marco Silva said: “I don’t know, but we are going to do our best, definitely.
“We are trying, it is a football match, and all of you know already what we are capable of doing.
“We have to believe in ourselves, this is the main thing for us and the most important thing, to believe in ourselves, the way we are going to play.
“We know that in some moments they are going to obligate us to do some things that we don’t like really, even playing at home, but we have to be able to handle that situation enough to play our game.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Fulham – Manor Solomon
Solomon has scored in each of his last five appearances for Fulham across all competitions (five goals).Ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, the only Premier League players to record a longer scoring streak in the 2022-23 season are Erling Haaland (10 games) and Marcus Rashford (seven).
Arsenal – Bukayo Saka
Saka has generated more chances following a carry (moving five or more metres with the ball) than any other player in the Premier League this season (44), with the Arsenal winger attempting 21 shots and creating 23 chances for team-mates in this manner. The England international has often been the man to provide inspiration in attack for the leaders this term, and he will hope to continue his excellent form at Craven Cottage.
MATCH PREDICTION – ARSENAL WIN
Arsenal have won 71 per cent of their Premier League games against Fulham (22/31), their best win rate against any opponent they have faced at least 20 times in the competition.
Fulham, meanwhile, are winless in their last nine Premier League meetings with Arsenal (D2 L7), while they have also lost 16 of their last 18 Premier League games against sides starting the day top of the table (W2), including each of the last nine in a row.
However, Silva’s team have lost just three of their 13 Premier League home games this season (W6 D4), going down to Newcastle United, Manchester United and Tottenham.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Fulham 27.7 per cent
Arsenal 43.3 per cent
Draw 28.6 per cent