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Arsenal-Newcastle United Preview

By JEFF FLETCHER

STATS European Editor

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) – Arsenal can secure Champions League qualification for the 16th consecutive season when they travel to play Newcastle at St James' Park on Sunday.

The Gunners (20-10-7) are currently fourth in the Premier League on 70 points, two behind third-place Chelsea and one ahead of Tottenham, who occupy fifth spot. Arsenal will take their place in Europe's elite club competition next term if they beat the Magpies. A draw and even a defeat on Tyneside would also be enough for Arsene Wenger's side if Spurs lose at home to Sunderland.

The Premier League have confirmed there will be a third-place play-off match at Villa Park on May 26 between Chelsea and Arsenal if the pair end the season with identical records. If Chelsea draw with Everton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Arsenal win by a one-goal margin at St James' Park, both teams would be level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

"We are in a position nobody expected us to be in," said Arsenal manager Wenger, whose side are unbeaten in nine Premier League matches. "We have our destiny in our hands, our fate in our hands and that's what you fight for in the game.

"It's a game that we now want to win but at least we fought back to be in a position where we are masters of our own fate. It shows that the job that the team has done is very good because they have improved throughout the season"

Newcastle (11-8-18) are in 13th place on 41 points and secured their top-flight future with a 2-1 victory at relegated Queens Park Rangers last weekend.

Magpies boss Alan Pardew has insisted his comments made after the win at Loftus Road about not caring if Newcastle lose 4-0 to Arsenal on Sunday were not to be taken seriously.

"I know people will have picked up on my comments about not caring about the result against Arsenal, which were, of course, a joke," Pardew told the club website. "It is definitely not the case that I would be happy for us to lose 4-0 against Arsenal on Sunday. I simply want our players and fans to be able to enjoy the game without looking over their shoulders.

"Even though we are now safe, we will be putting in the same effort that we would for any other Premier League game. We want to end the season on a positive, to finish in as high a position as possible and to give the fans something to cheer about on the final day of what has been a frustrating season. "

Newcastle will be without midfielder Moussa Sissoko, striker Shola Ameobi and defender Ryan Taylor, who all have knee injuries. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot serves a one-match ban after being given a red card at QPR. Arsenal playmaker Mikel Arteta is doubtful with a calf problem, while France striker Olivier Giroud is available for selection after completing a three-match ban.

Arsenal beat Newcastle 7-3 at the Emirates Stadium in late December. Theo Walcott bagged a hat trick, while Giroud scored twice and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski also scored for the Gunners. Demba Ba netted twice for the Magpies who also got a goal from Sylvain Marveaux. The match was tied 3-3 after 70 minutes before the Gunners netted four in the final 20 minutes.

Newcastle have won just once in their last 14 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, a 1-0 win at the Emirates in November 2010.

Arsenal have historically struggled at St James' Park, winning just 20 of 81 all-time visits. The Magpies have 40 wins and the sides have drawn 21 times.

This will be the 172nd all-time meeting in what has been a close fixture. Arsenal have edged it with 67 wins to Newcastle's 66 with 38 draws.

Updated May 17, 2013

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