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Arsenal gunning for top spot

Published: Monday 11 November 2002, 13.11CET
Arsenal FC and PSV Eindhoven have plenty to play for when they meet in Group A at Highbury.

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Published: Monday 11 November 2002, 13.11CET

Arsenal gunning for top spot

Arsenal FC and PSV Eindhoven have plenty to play for when they meet in Group A at Highbury.

By Matt Gatward

Arsenal FC will be aiming to get their UEFA Champions League season back on track at Highbury on Tuesday night when they tackle PSV Eindhoven with the chance of finishing first in Group A.

Top spot lost
Arsène Wenger's side have qualified for the second group stage but section supremacy had looked a certainty after the Londoners won their first three games, two of them away, without conceding a goal. However, defeats by AJ Auxerre and BV Borussia Dortmund in their last two European outings have changed the group's complexion.

Form dipped
As Arsenal's excellent early season form dipped, Dortmund, who have also qualified, took control of the pack, moving one point ahead of the Gunners. However, should the German champions take less than maximum points from their trip to Auxerre, Arsenal can sneak into first place with a win. Even a draw for the English club would be enough if Dortmund lose in France. For PSV, victory in London would guarantee their qualification for the UEFA Cup via a third-placed finish. They currently sit one point ahead of Auxerre so will be keeping tabs on events in France.

Slump over
Arsenal's Champions League slump coincided with two Premiership losses - 2-1 to Everton FC and Blackburn Rovers FC respectively - which halted their remarkable run of 30 league matches without defeat. However, they got back to winning ways with consecutive 1-0 victories against Fulham FC last weekend and Newcastle United FC on Saturday.

Seaman out
One of Arsenal's most experienced players, goalkeeper David Seaman, will miss the match because of a groin strain so the 27-year-old Rami Shaaban will deputise, rather than usual second-choice Stuart Taylor. "Shaaban is a very good keeper with a good leap and good hands and we need to take a look at him in a high competitive match," said Wenger. The English champions do, however, hope to have Lauren back in defence although Oleg Luzhny deputised well at the weekend. Midfield player Ray Parlour and defender Martin Keown are still injured and Sol Campbell will not be risked because of a back problem.

PSV lead league
PSV's form will give them hope ahead of their trip to London. They returned to the top of the Dutch Eredivisie at the weekend after two goals from striker Mateja Kezman and one from Mark Van Bommel gave them a 3-1 victory against SC Heerenveen. The win lifted them above AFC Ajax, who drew with Roda JC.

Ooijer returns
PSV will also be boosted by the return of defender André Ooijer who was suspended for Matchday Five when the Dutch club beat Auxerre 3-0 at home. However, it has surprisingly been their home form that has let them down thus far. Unbeaten on their travels - they drew in Auxerre and Dortmund - they have lost two of their three home games: 3-1 against Dortmund and 4-0 to Arsenal - a trouncing they will be eager to make amends for on Tuesday, especially as a place in the UEFA Cup is at stake.

Last updated: 13/11/02 0.11CET