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West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal: match preview

Carlos Vela, Arsenal loanee, who cannot play agin' us.
Carlos Vela, Arsenal loanee, who cannot play agin' us.

Kickoff: Saturday, March 19, 11 AM EDT
The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Televisual coveragence: Fox Soccer Plus, (subscribers only)

Arsenal travel up to the West Midlands tomorrow for a match against 16th-place West Bromwich Albion, looking for vengeance after their dull 3-2 defeat to the Baggies at the Emirates back in September.  In that match, West Brom put three goals past Manuel Almunia before Samir Nasri singlehandedly tried to salvage a draw with a second-half brace, but it was too late.

Tomorrow, West Brom, under new manager Roy Hodgson, will try to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone, but for Arsenal, the match also looms large.  Having lost three of their last five matches, they are down to a ten-game run to finish the Premier League, and as has been said often lately, if they win all ten, they are champions.  That is obviously a huge feat, and not particularly likely, but a win tomorrow is the first step; a stumble would be a huge letoff for league leaders Manchester United.

The injury news is vintage Arsenal at this point, after a steadier first half of the season.  Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, and Johan Djourou are all out (the team's creative spark, dynamic wing threat, and best defender this year, in other words).  Alex Song is still out as well.  Manuel Almunia, back from the grave, will start at goal, backed up by Jens Lehmann [Ed. note: cannot believe I typed those words].  Particularly with Fabregas and Walcott, the international break will hopefully offer them a chance to return to the squad in top condition for the run-in.

For their part, the Baggies are looking pretty good on the injury front, only missing three players at the moment: midfielder Graham Dorrans, defender Pablo Ibanez, and possibly midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky; Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin.

With possibly Abou Diaby coming in at some point (although there are rumors he is not 100% either), and who knows about the Squillaci/Koscielny partnership at this point...