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Monday 11 December 2017

Ambitious Wenger won't do Zola any favours

Arsene Wenger has every sympathy with the plight of Gianfranco Zola, but will not be looking to do the under-pressure West Ham manager any favours when Arsenal aim to go top of the Premier League at Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

The Gunners -- who yesterday were handed a glamour Champions League quarter-final clash against holders and favourites Barcelona -- can take full advantage of Manchester United and Chelsea both not playing until tomorrow by beating the relegation battlers. Following last weekend's 4-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, the Irons remain very much in a battle for top-flight survival, just three points above the drop zone.

Wenger said: "I have a lot of sympathy for Gianfranco Zola because I like him very much as a person but my target is to win the game. For him, it will be exactly the same problem -- they will try to win, we will try to win."

The Gunners boss added: "The Premier League is very difficult, so nobody can be surprised by what happens to any team, because it is unpredictable and is so difficult this season for everybody. It can happen that when confidence drops, you lose points that are unexpected."

Arsenal -- currently two points behind United and level with Chelsea, although having played a match more -- will welcome back captain Cesc Fabregas after the influential midfielder missed the wins over Porto and Hull because of a hamstring problem.

The return of the Spain international to his boyhood club adds to the spice for the European tie, with former Arsenal captain Thierry Henry now plying his trade at the Nou Camp.

Wenger, though, insists his squad must concentrate on getting the right result in today's late kick-off.

"If you go to the bookmakers and try to place a few pounds, you will see that we are not favourites against Barcelona," Wenger said. "For me, we have a 50/50 game -- if we turn up with our best performance we have a good chance to beat them.

"I believe it is much more important to focus on the West Ham game than the Barcelona draw.

"We have fought since August for the championship and it is important we keep our mind on what is vital to us -- that is the championship, then we can go into the Champions League with the right belief.

ARSENAL v WEST HAM

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