Sunderland-Arsenal Preview

The Associated Press

It's a quick turnaround from a disappointing loss for Arsenal, who try to stay in the thick of the Premier League title hunt Saturday when they host Sunderland at the Emirates.

The Gunners (17-5-4) are one point behind Chelsea for the top spot with 12 matches remaining, but they failed to help themselves in Champions League play on Wednesday night, losing 2-0 to reigning title holders Bayern Munich. Mesut Ozil missed an early penalty, and the match turned when goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for fouling Arjen Robben.

Playing with 10 men for the entire second half, backup 'keeper Lukasz Fabianski was beaten by both Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller to leave Arsenal in a dire situation for the return leg in the round of 16 matchup.

"When you go down to 10 men against a team like Bayern Munich, it's going to be very hard," Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain told the team's official website. "I thought we battled really well for as long as we could to try and keep them at bay - it's just disappointing that at the end they managed to get another goal."

Arsenal's defence has seldom been an issue in league play, and they carry a 456-minute home shutout streak into this match. They also are unbeaten in their last 12 at the Emirates in league play (9-3-0) since opening the season with a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa and have outscored opponents 21-3 in those matches.

However, manager Arsene Wenger may also have a concern in the attack as forward Olivier Giroud continues to deal with tabloid reports alleging he had an affair with a model. Giroud tweeted an apology earlier in the week, saying, "I now have to fight for my family and for my club and obtain their forgiveness. Nothing else matters at the moment."

Giroud, who has a team-leading 14 goals in all competitions, did not play Wednesday versus Bayern and Wenger hinted he may leave him off the squad again for this match.

"It was not punishment, it was just a decision tonight," Wenger insisted. "Giroud is a strong character, and what happened doesn't influence his behaviour on the pitch. I just decided to give him a breather for one or two games, and to give him a chance to come back refreshed."

Sunderland (6-6-13) is still in a fight to avoid the drop, currently in 18th, and trailing West Bromwich on goal differential in the path to safety. The Jekyll-and-Hyde like Black Cats continued their stunning runs in cup play last weekend, this time advancing to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with a 1-0 home victory over Southampton on Saturday.

Craig Gardner's goal in the 49th minute put Sunderland - already into next month's League Cup final against Manchester City - into a match against the winner of a replay between Hull City and Championship squad Brighton & Hove Albion

"The run is just giving us real confidence, everyone is behind the gaffer," Gardner told Sunderland's official website about Gus Poyet. "You can't not like him - he's a top man and training his brilliant. Everyone wants to do well and wants to get through."

Poyet wasn't around for Sunderland's 3-1 home loss in September as Aaron Ramsey's second-half brace secured three points for Arsenal, but he is eager for the challenge the Gunners present.

"We need to be organised and very good on the ball," Poyet said. "We need to make sure we share the ball with the attitude to attack, to make the most skillful players to go back and defend to where they don't like to do it. You need to be brave on the ball."

Arsenal are 5-3-0 in league play versus Sunderland since a 1-0 loss Nov. 21, 2009. The Black Cats, though, did win 2-0 in the fifth round of the 2012 FA Cup.

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