Title looking way off for Arsenal, Man United as fallen giants meet in Premier League



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MANCHESTER, England — It wasn't so long ago that Arsenal vs. Manchester United was one of the marquee matches in the Premier League season, a fixture that went a long way to deciding which team won the title.

Now, it pits two sides struggling to even get in the top four.

Arsenal is sixth and 20-time English champion United is seventh heading into Saturday's game at Emirates Stadium, with both clubs having had a tough start to the season mainly because of injury problems and suspect defending.

They have already been cut adrift by Chelsea, which is the unbeaten leader after 11 games and showing the kind of form that is making pundits wonder whether it can go through the season without losing.

Here are some things to know about the upcoming matches in the Premier League on its resumption after the international break:


UNITED'S INJURIES

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is counting the cost of the recent batch of international games, with goalkeeper David de Gea (dislocated finger), defender Luke Shaw (unspecified) and midfielders Angel Di Maria (ankle), Daley Blind (knee) and Michael Carrick (groin) joining an already-lengthy injury list at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal has been unfortunate with injuries since taking over in the offseason, with his defense regularly short of its best players and Colombia striker Radamel Falcao starting just three times following his expensive loan move from Monaco.

United said Thursday that 12 members of its squad are carrying injuries.

Van Gaal's side hasn't won any of its five away matches in the Premier League this season.


WELBECK FACES OLD TEAM

Danny Welbeck will look to show United was wrong to sell him on transfer deadline day this summer when he lines up for Arsenal against his old club for the first time.

The England striker has scored five goals in 12 games for Arsenal since leaving his boyhood team, where he rarely got a start or was played out of position on the left wing.

"Personally I have been surprised by his technical capacity, the way he understands the game, his work rate," Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta said. "I rate him more now than I used to and this is a good sign because normally the opposite is true when you watch a player on a daily basis."

While Welbeck and fellow summer signing Alexis Sanchez, who has scored six goals in his last four league starts, have been the positives for Arsenal this season, the defense remains a worry for manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal has thrown away a lead in its last two matches, drawing 3-3 against Anderlecht in the Champions League after being 3-0 ahead and conceding two late goals to lose 2-1 at Swansea in the Premier League.


NO STOPPING CHELSEA

Chelsea is turning the title race into a procession, with only surprising Southampton in touching distance of the leaders ahead of their home match against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Chelsea holds a four-point lead and has played arguably its four toughest matches — away games at Everton, Liverpool, and the two Manchester clubs — without losing. Its biggest title rival, defending champion Man City, is eight points behind in third.

"We don't have the title in the bag," goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said. "We are trying to win with every game that is possible but there will be still a long way to win the title."

Top scorer Diego Costa should be refreshed after being rested by Spain over the international break.


LIVERPOOL'S ATTACKING WOES

Liverpool's strikeforce was the main reason why the team finished second in the Premier League last season. This time round, it's proving Liverpool's biggest issue.

In the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge since early September, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini — the other three strikers in the squad — have not scored a goal between them in the league.

Like Arsenal and Man United, Liverpool's objective is simply finishing in the top four to secure a place in the Champions League, but it is currently in 11th place.

Balotelli injured his hamstring on international duty with Italy and is a doubt for Liverpool's match at Crystal Palace on Sunday.


ELSEWHERE

Looking to maintain its stunning start, Southampton goes for a fifth straight win when it visits Aston Villa on Monday. Man City hosts Swansea while fourth-place West Ham is away to Everton.

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