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2006-02-13 00:00张海山,CRI

Arsenal Desperate to Get the Better of Bolton

Arsenal face Bolton Wanderers for the third time in a little over two months on Saturday hoping to avoid a third successive defeat at the hands of Sam Allardyce's side.

Bolton won 1-0 in the FA Cup and 2-0 in the league, both at the Reebok, but it is not just this season that they have proved a thorn in Arsenal's side. They beat them 1-0 at the Reebok last season and drew at Highbury and also managed draws in the three previous campaigns.

It is a remarkable record for a club who begin each season with the main aim of avoiding relegation while their illustrious rivals dream of titles and trophies.

Currently, however, there are only two points and two places between them in the Premier League standings and seventh-placed Bolton have a game in hand on their fifth-placed rivals.

Bolton will be buoyed by the return of players from the African Nations Cup and are arranging a private jet to bring back El Hadji Diouf, Abdoulaye Faye and Jay Jay Okocha after Thursday's third/fourth playoff between Nigeria and Senegal in Egypt.

"They will join the rest of the squad in London and prepare for what will be a massive game against Arsenal," Allardyce told the club's website.

"If they avoid any injuries they will be ready to play on Saturday -- Radhi Jaidi returned to the club on Tuesday and is ready to play some part at Highbury."

None of that quartet were on duty when Bolton knocked a weakened Arsenal out of the FA Cup two weeks ago and Allardyce knows that this weekend will present a much stiffer test.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has poured all his resources into his league campaign -- going out of both domestic cups in the process -- but with his Champions League duel with Real Madrid less than two weeks away the Frenchman might not be able to resist further "rotation".

The decision whether to reinstate Sol Campbell after his disappearance could be taken out of his hands by an ankle injury.

The England centre back returned to training on Monday after walking out on the club after their 3-2 defeat by West Ham United, in which he was substituted at halftime.

Wenger could give a debut to Theo Walcott, the 16-year-old striker signed from Southampton last month and who scored for the reserves on Wednesday.

Arsenal are four points behind local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the battle for fourth place, though they have a game in hand and with Spurs visiting bottom club Sunderland on Sunday the Gunners cannot afford another Bolton blank.

Chelsea will expect to take another regulation step towards retaining the title as they visit a Middlesbrough side thumped 4-0 at home by Aston Villa last week.

Chelsea have 66 points from 25 games, 15 clear of Manchester United, and warmed up for the weekend nicely with a 4-1 thrashing of Everton in their FA Cup replay on Wednesday.

The battle for second place has moved Manchester United's way in recent weeks as Liverpool have faltered.

Since their last-gasp 1-0 win defeat at Old Trafford three weeks ago Liverpool have lost to Chelsea and Charlton Athletic and drawn at home with Birmingham City. United, away to Portsmouth on Saturday, have 51 points to the 45 of Liverpool. Raphael Benitez's side have a game in hand -- away to Arsenal next Tuesday -- and make the short trip to Wigan in Saturday's lunchtime kickoff game.








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