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Sunderland vs. Arsenal: match preview

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Arsenal travel to the coal-fired Northeast tomorrow for their fifth English Premier League match of the season against Sunderland.  The match begins at 1230 EDT; Fox Soccer Channel will have the coverage.

Last season's trip to the Stadium of Light and Black Cats ended in a 1-0 loss, the first loss in 13 matches across all competitions for the Gunners.  It was the third defeat of the year at that point.  The return at the Emirates in February was a 2-0 victory for Arsenal with goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal will be without Abou Diaby and Thomas Vermaelen; both will be fit for the West Brom match next weekend.  The long-term absentees, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, and Nicklas Bendtner, will be out as well.

The key for the Gunners tomorrow will be to avoid a letdown after their stroll against SC Braga on Wednesday.  The team shouldn't be too drained from that match, however, and there seems to be a certain resolve to always push forward so far this year that could mean that any potential letdown will not materialize.

It will be interesting to see how Wenger lines up the team for the first away match in three weeks; massive changes from the team that played on Wednesday are unlikely.  Emmanuel Eboué seems like a potential starter on the wing given his limited time on Wednesday and what he brings to the table defensively, but his creativity is limited compared to Samir Nasri or Tomas Rosicky, and Wenger will probably look to attack as he has been so far this year.

For Sunderland, Lee Cattermole is out with a suspension, and they may miss his combative (!) presence in midfield.

Potential lineup:

-------------------------------------Almunia-------------------------------------

---Sagna-----------Squillaci-------------Koscielny----------Clichy------

---------------------Song--------Fabregas----Wilshere-------------------

----------Nasri-----------------Chamakh---------------------Arshavin----

With Gibbs, Rosicky, and Denilson perhaps in the mix somewhere.

Thoughts?