Arsenal v Middlesbrough Preview
By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The Gunners sailed through the first half of the Premiership term without losing a game as they seek to wrestle the league crown from Manchester United.
Arsenal have already comfortably accounted for Boro once this season, via a convincing 4-0 hammering at The Riverside in the second match of the campaign.
But Boro have noticeably tightened up their rearguard in the meantime and travel to North London, having suffered just one defeat in ten Premiership fixtures.
Saturday's encounter in the capital marks the first chapter in a four-part saga involving the two clubs as a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final and FA Cup fourth round tie are also on the agenda.
Premiership points, though, are the priority and Arsenal have several injury concerns ahead of the visit of Steve McClaren's men.
Arsene Wenger may be forced to change both full backs with Kolo Toure and Ashley Cole both suffering from injuries.
Toure collected a foot injury in the draw at Everton in midweek and is set to be replaced by Lauren while Cole has a shoulder problem. Gael Clichy stands by as his substitute.
Dennis Bergkamp (calf) and Sylvain Wiltord (ankle) are still carrying knocks, meaning Everton scorer Nwankwo Kanu should get another chance alongside Thierry Henry.
The visitors' key concern regards the goalkeeping department as McClaren may be forced to plunge rookie Brad Jones into the heat of battle at Highbury.
Jones made his Premiership bow against Fulham in midweek and will continue to deputise if Mark Schwarzer fails to recover from a back injury as Carlo Nash's broken finger makes him a long-term casualty.
Jonathan Greening is also out for some time with tonsillitis while Malcolm Christie is not ready to return from a broken leg.
Gaizka Mendieta and Michael Ricketts missed the win over Fulham with flu and a knee injury respectively but may be ready to return this weekend.