Arsenal on shaky ground in Premier League
LONDON (AP) -Assured of being without silverware for an eighth straight year, Arsenal may not even have its usual top-four finish in the Premier League to fall back on this season if it loses to Swansea on Saturday.
An improbable 2-0 win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday still couldn't prevent Arsenal from exiting the Champions League, and the club's main focus now is getting back into Europe's top competition for the 16th straight year.
However, Arsene Wenger's side is outside the Champions League positions in fifth place with 10 games left, trailing fourth-place Chelsea by five points and third-place Tottenham by seven.
Arsenal has had problems this season against Swansea, losing at home in the league on Dec. 1 and needing 180 minutes to get past the Welsh club in the FA Cup, while Tottenham and Chelsea are expected to win home games against Fulham and West Ham, respectively, on Sunday.
"We won a big game (against Bayern), let's be inspired by that for the rest of the season,'' Wenger said Friday.
Tottenham and Chelsea both came through tough examinations in the Europa League to reach the quarterfinals on Thursday, which may play into Arsenal's hands as tiredness could come into play in the remaining two months of the season.
Spurs have become known for their end-of-season collapses, while Chelsea's fixture schedule after the upcoming international break looks severe, with the European champions having to play six matches in 16 days across three competitions.
"I prefer to have this problem because it means we're carrying on and competing,'' Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said Thursday after the 3-1 win over Steaua Bucharest, the team's 52nd game of an already grueling season.
Tottenham looked drained after squeezing past Inter Milan on Thursday on away goals despite a 4-1 loss at the San Siro but will be boosted by the return from suspension of winger Gareth Bale for the Fulham game.
A 3-2 defeat at Liverpool last weekend ended Spurs' 12-match unbeaten run in the league, and even raised Liverpool's hopes of gatecrashing the race for the Champions League spots.
"We've been on an unbelievable run and sometimes things like this happen,'' Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson said. "Hopefully we can go on another run between now and the end of the season.''
The fight for the top four is proving to be more exciting than the title race this season, with Manchester United protecting a 12-point lead ahead of a home match against next-to-last Reading on Saturday.
Reading will be without a manager at Old Trafford following the firing of Brian McDermott on Monday, after a four-game losing run left the team level on points with last-place Queens Park Rangers. Eamonn Dolan is currently in temporary charge of Reading.
"They're the best football club in the world and the best manager of all time,'' Dolan said of United and its manager, Alex Ferguson. "But I won't be thinking about that tomorrow.
"We need to get a result. I think Reading deserves to be in the Premier League.''
There's a big match at the bottom with QPR, buoyed by back-to-back wins against Southampton and Sunderland, visiting third-from-last Aston Villa.
Also Saturday, second-place Manchester City travels to Everton, Liverpool plays at Southampton and Stoke hosts West Bromwich Albion.
Sunday's other games see Sunderland host Norwich and Newcastle go to Wigan.
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