Injury woes for Gunners
Manchester United go into Sunday's Premier League showdown with Arsenal, boosted by yet another cup final appearance, while the Gunners limp into the match with more injury woes.
United beat neighbours Manchester City 3-1 on Wednesday to set up a League Cup final against Aston Villa, while Arsenal came out of its 0-0 draw at Aston Villa with injuries to defender Thomas Vermaelen and striker Eduardo da Silva.
With Chelsea back at the top, with a game in hand and facing a Burnley side which has dropped into the relegation zone, both United and Arsenal badly need the three points when they meet at the Emirates Stadium.
Chelsea regained the lead with a 3-0 victory over Birmingham on Wednesday and are a point ahead of United with Arsenal a further point behind.
That means Arsenal could wind up five points behind Chelsea and four behind United if the top two teams win. Then the Gunners have to face Chelsea and Liverpool in the league.
Without central defender
United will be without central defender Rio Ferdinand on Sunday. He starts a four-game suspension after being found guilty on Thursday of violent conduct, elbowing Hull striker Craig Fagan in Saturday's 4-0 victory.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Vermaelen was doubtful for Sunday's game and ruled out Eduardo. Vermaelen went off with a leg injury while Eduardo has a hamstring problem.
"There is no fracture in Thomas' leg but his injury still has to be assessed," Wenger said yesterday. "There is still a good chance he will not play on Sunday.
"Eduardo ... will be out for one week. He will not make Man United but he might make Chelsea."
Vermaelen and Eduardo have joined Robin van Persie, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Merida and Abou Diaby on the Arsenal injury list.
Now it looks like Wenger, who is proud of the young team he is building, will have to send out a central defensive partnership with a combined age of 67 against United on Sunday. Sol Campbell has rejoined the club at age 35 and is likely to partner 32-year-old William Gallas.
Ferguson, who has won 11 Premier Leagues, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues during his time at Old Trafford has now taken defending champions United to his seventh League Cup final - a record for one manager.
"We'll assess (the final) when we get to it," he said. "We've got some important games in the league and the Champions League to look forward to now. Arsenal on Sunday at the Emirates is a big game for us, we need to win that game."
Chelsea are likely to field striker Didier Drogba at Burnley now that the Cte d'Ivoire striker has returned from the African Cup of Nations. But captain John Terry is not assuming it will be three easy points.
"At Burnley on Saturday we have to win where Manchester United have lost and Arsenal have drawn," he said. "When we play Arsenal at home (February 7) wins against Burnley and Hull, if we can achieve them, would have opened a healthy gap for us. But to achieve that, it's got to be champion form."
The top three are eight points clear of Tottenham, who go to eighth place Birmingham tomorrow. Fifth place Liverpool host Bolton and Manchester City hope to bounce back from its League Cup loss at United by beating last place Portsmouth on Sunday.
Despite gaining a point against Arsenal, Villa are back in seventh and have not scored in their last four league games.
Manager Martin O'Neill, whose team visits Fulham on Saturday, was angry at Wenger's comments after Wednesday's 0-0 draw that Villa had played an unattractive long-ball game to sidestep Arsenal's talented midfield.