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Premier League Preview: Arsenal - Sunderland

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Premier League Preview: Arsenal - Sunderland
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Premier League Preview: Arsenal - Sunderland

Arsenal will be looking to make amends for their Champions League disappointment with a win on Saturday as Sunderland switches focus from cup success to its fight for Premier League safety.

Although defeat to Bayern severely dented the Gunners' bid to reach the quarterfinals of Europe's top club competition, Arsene Wenger's side is still very much in contention for a first English title in 10 years.

Arsenal is just a point behind leaders Chelsea and defender Per Mertesacker is confident it can recover from the European disappointment.

"Our team has great spirit and will come back from this (the defeat to Bayern)," Mertesacker told Arsenal's official website. "We have to switch on quickly again on Saturday in an important game in the Premier League and get the three points."

Gus Poyet's men, meanwhile, slipped back into the relegation zone on goal difference last week when their match at Manchester City was postponed due to inclement weather, yet a superb revival has seen the north-east club lose just two of their last 16 matches in all competitions.

The Black Cats face City in the Capital One Cup final on March 2 and are also into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup after beating Southampton on Saturday.

However, a 2-0 home defeat to Hull City in their most recent Premier League clash served as a stark reminder of the task they face in a congested battle for survival.

And that challenge is unlikely to get any easier against title-chasing Arsenal, which Sunderland has not beaten away from home since 1983.

Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is unavailable for the trip to the Emirates Stadium due to a shoulder injury, while defender Carlos Cuellar has been given extra time to recover from a hip problem.

Wes Brown serves the final game of a two-match ban, but Poyet could be handed a boost by the return of Steven Fletcher, who is hoping to make his return from an Achilles injury.

Arsenal has a host of key players out of action, with defender Thomas Vermaelen (calf) and midfielders Kim Kallstrom (back) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) all unavailable.

Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby (both knee) are long-term absentees and could be joined on the sidelines by defender Kieran Gibbs after he came off during Wednesday's defeat to Bayern with a hamstring injury.

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