Applauding former teammate Robin van Persie will be a painful moment for Arsenals players when they welcome Premier League champion Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. It has become tradition in England for opponents to give the new champions a guard of honor before kick-off but venerating Van Persie,who left Arsenal to join Manchester United last year,will be a particularly uncomfortable experience for the Gunners. Van Persie,whose 24 goals have been instrumental in Uniteds title triumph,spent eight seasons at Arsenal before quitting the club.
Despite some supporters objections,however,manager Arsene Wenger said there was never a possibility of Arsenal refusing to follow tradition on Sunday.
When you work somewhere abroad,you have to respect the culture of the country, Wenger said. That is part of the tradition of English football and I want that to be respected.
We respect Robin van Persie like every other player who has left us. I want the player to be respected like everybody else.
There will be other concerns for the Gunners though. Arsenal cannot afford to concede ground in the race for the Champions League qualification spots but it should not expect any favors from United,who can break the leagues record points total of 94 if it wins all four of its remaining games. Weve won the league but we wont go there and relax, United midfielder Michael Carrick said. We want to put on a good performance and try to play as if the title depended on it,thats how well approach it.
Arsenal is a point ahead of Chelsea and two points clear of Tottenham but has played a game more than both in the chase for the top four places. Tottenham plays first of the three teams this weekend and can put pressure on their rivals by moving into third with a win over Wigan on Saturday. Tottenham still has to play Chelsea. But the Blues first play Swansea at home as they look to bounce back from conceding a late equaliser against Liverpool last weekend. Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez is likely to rotate his side for the match. The game will also see Eden Hazard face the club he was sent off against for kicking a ball boy during the League Cup semifinals in February.
EPL weekend fixtures
SATURDAY: City vs West Ham (6:15 pm,Star Sports); Everton vs Fulham (7.30 pm); Southampton vs West Brom(7.30 pm); Stoke vs Norwich (7.30 pm,ESPN) Wigan vs Tottenham (7.30 pm,Star Sports); Newcastle vs Liverpool (9 pm,Star Sports).
SUNDAY: Reading vs QPR (6 pm,Live on Star Sports); Chelsea vs Swansea (7.30 pm); Arsenal vs Manchester United (8.30 pm,Live on Star Sports)