STEVE Bruce says Arsenal will not be distracted in tomorrow’s game against Sunderland by the fact they have a crucial Champions League tie against Barcelona just 72 hours later.
The Gunners take on the Spanish champions in the Nou Camp on Tuesday knowing that if they avoid defeat they will progress into the last eight of Europe’s showpiece club competition.
But Bruce believes Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will not under-estimate the importance of the Black Cats’ visit to the Emirates Stadium as he looks to win silverware on several fronts.
“I expect no easing up from Arsenal,” said the Black Cats’ boss. “Absolutely none.
“In my opinion, they are one of only two teams who are genuinely capable of winning the Premier League this season and they know that they need to keep the pressure up on Manchester United.
“United losing to Chelsea on Tuesday leaves Arsenal just four points behind with the same number of games played.
“And if they beat us at the weekend they’ll be just one point behind, ahead of United’s game against Liverpool on Sunday.
“Arsenal know that they have to keep the pressure on because they know they are still in with a fighting chance of winning the league this season – they’ll see the game against us as one of vital importance.”
Arsenal are expected to be missing Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Theo Walcott but Bruce points out that Sunderland have injury problems of their own.
“You miss your big players,” he said. “But we are the same with the likes of Michael Turner, Lee Cattermole, Fraizer Campbell and Danny Welbeck being out.
“The thing about the really big clubs like Arsenal, though, is that they have bigger resources to call on and they’ll have more than enough matchwinners against us.
“They’ll be smarting, too.
“They have a good FA Cup win in midweek over Leyton Orient, but they lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham City last weekend and that will hurt.
“The most successful clubs turn disappointments to their advantage, so we know we’ll be up against it tomorrow against a highly-motivated team.
“But we’ve had good results against a lot of top teams since I got to Sunderland and maybe tomorrow we can add one more.”