Arsenal players Bacary Sagna and Theo Walcott will look to terrorize the Newcastle defence down the right. Reuters
Top spot in 2013 will be the target for Arsenal when they travel to Newcastle in the English Premier League on Sunday.
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The Gunners were displaced at the top by Manchester City, following the latter's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday. A two-point lead at the top means, nothing short of victory will do if Arsenal are to finish the calendar year as the Premier League leaders.
However, with Newcastle on a tremendous run of their own - unbeaten in four, with three wins - Arsene Wenger will know his side will have to be at their best to come away smiling at the end of 90 minutes, like they did on Boxing Day, coming from behind to seal a 3-1 victory at West Ham.
"You feel Newcastle have got potential this season," Wenger said. "They have a good offensive force and a very strong bunch of French players who are all close to the national team or in it. That's why they can be dangerous against anybody and look able to win everywhere."
The last time Arsenal met Newcastle, the Gunners came up trumps in a must-win game to secure a place in the Champions League. While the stakes are not as high as it was then on the final day of the last season, finishing top of the league will be a fitting end to what has been a truly consistent 2013 for the Gunners.
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye will want to make an impact against Arsenal, the club that bid for his services in the summer. Reuters
"We celebrated [last season] because it was that or play in the Europa League," Wenger said of last season's 1-0 victory. "[This season] what we want to do is to fight for the title and, at the moment, we are in the race. What can keep us there is consistency.
"Until now, we have done that. But you are always judged on your last result. We have had just some games which were very difficult -- Everton at home, Napoli in Naples, at Man City and then against Chelsea. So you know that you can drop some points there but the most important thing is to come back and be consistent. That's what is at stake for us."
Newcastle ran over Stoke on Boxing Day, picking up a 5-1 win after their opponents were reduced to nine men at the end of the first half. Confidence will be running high in Alan Pardew's camp and Newcastle will, no doubt, go into the fixture, thinking they can come away with all three points.
"We've set ourselves up for what will be an intriguing encounter and we'll probably know a little bit more about this team after Arsenal," Pardew said. "We've been on an incredible run really. I'm not sure if any team has beaten that run over the last nine or 10 games this season, not even Arsenal."
Team news: Newcastle: Pardew does not have any new injuries to worry about, with midfielder Cheick Tiote returning from suspension.
Arsenal: Laurent Koscielny remains doubtful, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby are sidelined. Aaron Ramsey is out of the rest of the festive fixtures, while Jack Wilshere returns from a two-match suspension.
Key men: Newcastle: Yohan Cabaye, after seeing a bid from Arsenal turned down by the Magpies in the summer, will be keen to make an impression, while the rest of the French army will also want to perform in front of one of the greatest ever French managers - Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal: Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski sparked a brilliant Arsenal comeback against West Ham, and with the two raring to go after missing much of the season, Wenger has two fresh players chomping at the bit to have a crack at goal.
Expected lineups: Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Tiote, Cabaye; Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Gouffran; Remy.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Flamini, Wilshere; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla; Giroud.
Prediction: 2-1 to Arsenal
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