Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal needs win to close Leicester gap to eight points
  • West Ham currently battling Manchester United for final spot in Europe
  • Cheikhou Kouyate returns following red card suspension
  • Arsenal’s health improving down the stretch

West Ham United will host Arsenal at Upton Park on Saturday (7:45 a.m. ET available on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as the Hammers attempt to keep their European dreams alive.

Slaven Bilic and his side are unbeaten in their last six Premier League matches, giving West Ham a legitimate shot to qualify for the Europa League for the second consecutive season, as well as an outside opportunity to seek their first Champions League appearance in club history.

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Arsenal’s injury woes have decimated the team throughout this season, however, Arsene Wenger‘s team appears to be getting healthy at the right time. The question remains: is it too late, too late though?

Goalkeeper Petr Cech appears to be in the running to start in net against the Hammers, while midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini could also be in-line to feature for Arsenal.

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Although West Ham’s pursuit for Europe highlights the storylines, the Gunners still possess an outside chance at the PL title this season, with seven matches remaining. While winning out is likely a necessity, as well as slip-ups by Leicester and Tottenham, Wenger and company aren’t mathematically eliminated.

What they’re saying

Bilic believes match can define team’s season

“It’s a big game, a London derby first of all. The season is approaching an end, and it’s very important for them and for us. We are both fighting, either for a place in Europe or, from their point of view, they are trying to be champions. They still have a chance on paper, but they admit they need to win all their games. There’s a lot at stake. We also need points to stay in the race for the top four, five or six.”

Wenger recognizes talent in West Ham squad

“I think the emergence of (Dimitri) Payet has given them a lot of creativity and efficiency. They have (Cheikhou) Kouyate, (Mark) Noble, Payet, (Manuel) Lanzini – they have a strong midfield and good strikers with (Diafra) Sakho.”

Prediction

With just two home losses this season, West Ham is more than capable of knocking off the Gunners. While the two sides haven’t met since their opening weekend fixture back in August, which the Hammers took 2-0, there has been a recurring theme over the course of the 2015-16 season: West Ham isn’t going away. Similarly to Leicester, West Ham may have a smaller club stigma, but the team features the quality that matches that of the top sides in England. In what has been a dream year for the minnows, I’ll take the Hammers 3-2 in a match that sums up the brilliance of this PL season.

Follow @MattReedFutbol