February 8, 2018 / 2:19 AM / 14 days ago

Arsenal new boys face early derby baptism of fire

LONDON (Reuters) - New Arsenal signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will get an early taste of the north London derby atmosphere when they face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday.

The pair enjoyed comfortable home debuts in last weekend’s 5-1 rout of Everton but their local rivals are sure to provide tougher opposition as the two teams continue their bids for Champions League qualification.

Spurs are fifth in the table, four points ahead of sixth-placed Arsenal, one behind fourth-placed Chelsea and two adrift of third-placed Liverpool with 12 games left.

Arsenal outplayed Tottenham in a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium in November but Spurs have every reason to be confident having soundly beaten second-placed Manchester United and drawn 2-2 at Liverpool in their last two games.

Liverpool travel to St Mary’s on Sunday to face a Southampton side who ended a 12-match winless run in the league and climbed two points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion in their last match.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will welcome bottom club West Brom to Stamford Bridge on Monday on the back of losing 3-0 at home to Bournemouth and 4-1 away to Watford.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Swansea City vs Arsenal - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - January 30, 2018 Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan shoots at goal Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

The results prompted widespread speculation that manager Antonio Conte would be sacked, but it appears that Chelsea’s board are prepared to give the Italian time to arrest the champions’ slump.

Another blip against West Brom, who have won only three times this season and sit four points from safety, would almost certainly put Conte back on the brink of losing his job.

Leaders Manchester City have the chance to bounce back from being held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley when they host eighth-placed Leicester City on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side missed several good chances at Turf Moor and their gap at the top was cut to 13 points following Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

Riyad Mahrez is set to miss the match for Leicester as his stand-off with the club continues. The Algeria international is angry about not being allowed to join Manchester City during the January transfer window and has been absent from training sessions.

Manchester United will hope to secure back-to-back wins when they visit another relegation-threatened team, Newcastle United, on Sunday.

The Magpies are 16th, one point above the relegation zone, and have not won in four league matches, although they have been boosted by the loan signings of Kenedy from Chelsea and Islam Slimani from Leicester.

Reporting by Matt Westby, editing by Ed Osmond

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