Arsenal hosts ailing Portsmouth in Premier League

Arsenal has the chance to prove its stunning start to the Premier League season was no fluke when it hosts Portsmouth on Saturday.

updated: August 21, 2009 17:09 IST
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Arsenal has the chance to prove its stunning start to the Premier League season was no fluke when it hosts Portsmouth on Saturday.

The Gunners opened last weekend with a 6-1 win at Everton, a team that finished just one place below them last season, and a further improvement on an already positive goal difference looks likely against a side seemingly destined to struggle against relegation.

While Everton went into its game against Arsenal still high from a second straight fifth-place finish and an appearance in the FA Cup final, Pompey has sold key players Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson since narrowly avoiding relegation last season and has lost its first two games 1-0.

With Manchester United and Liverpool so far inconsistent and hit by injuries in defense, the Gunners could be on course to take an early advantage in the race for the title.

"Many, many things can be improved and, at the moment, although it is only two games into the season, things are working really well," goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said. "At the moment, all the players are really fit and really focused and that is the key to a successful season."

Arsenal attacked Everton with verve and then won a Champions League qualifier at Celtic in midweek despite not being on top form, arguably the hallmark of a successful team.

Striker Eduardo da Silva is fit to face Portsmouth despite missing the Celtic match with a groin problem, but Theo Walcott is still out with a back injury and may not even face Manchester United on August 29.

"It is always difficult to set a date," manager Arsene Wenger said. "I thought he would be available for Celtic, I thought he would be available for Everton, but he wasn't.

"That's why we will be cautious."

United is reeling after losing at newly promoted Burnley and needs victory at Wigan to get its season back on track ahead of the meeting with Arsenal.

Rio Ferdinand has been ruled out for up to a month because of a thigh injury, but United's defensive problems may be eased by the return from injury of Nemanja Vidic and Gary Neville.

"That gives us experience at an important time after defeat on Wednesday," manager Alex Ferguson said.

Liverpool rallied from an opening loss at surprise leader Tottenham to beat Stoke 4-0 but is set to be without key defender Daniel Agger for up to six weeks after back surgery next week.

With Martin Skrtel also in doubt for Monday's home game against Aston Villa, 18-year-old defender Daniel Ayala could play again after making his debut on Wednesday.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp takes his team to former club West Ham on Sunday, with Jermain Defoe hopeful of adding to the hat trick he scored in Wednesday's 5-1 win at Hull.

Stoke is at Birmingham, Bolton faces Hull, Wolverhampton Wanderers plays Manchester City and Blackburn is at Sunderland on Saturday. Everton travels to Burnley and Chelsea meets Fulham in a west London derby at Craven Cottage on Sunday.