Both reeling from embarrassing weekend results in the Premier League, Arsenal and Manchester United will each be determined to restore credibility when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
While Arsenal ceded first place to Chelsea after being blown away in a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday, United could only record a 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, who had started the game at the foot of the table.
Arsenal’s capitulation ended a run of 10 games without defeat in all competitions, but manager Arsene Wenger can at least console himself that it left his side only a point off the summit.
Silver linings are not quite as easy to find for United, who trail fourth-place Liverpool by nine points and therefore seem destined to miss out on a place in next season’s Champions League.
The defending champions dominated Sunday’s game against Fulham at Old Trafford, enjoying 75 percent of possession and sending no fewer than 81 crosses into the visitors’ box.
They would have prevailed had it not been for a 94th-minute equaliser scored by Fulham’s Darren Bent, but record signing Juan Mata says that his side must develop a keener cutting edge.
“It seems that luck is not on our side, but I don’t like to give excuses,” the former Chelsea midfielder wrote on his personal blog on Monday.
“We have to get better and improve our shooting accuracy, because we got many times to the box and could have scored more than two goals.
“I’m sure we will make it, but there are less and less games to play so the sooner the better.”
Michael Carrick, who scored United’s second goal, said the result was “hard to explain”, but he warned that he and his team-mates were desperate to take their frustrations out on Arsenal.
“We’ll be ready,” said the England midfielder.