Gareth Barry has admitted Arsenal are in pole position to beat Aston Villa to the final UEFA Champions League spot.
The Gunners have edged back ahead of Villa into fourth place in the Premier League table on goal difference after Martin O'Neill's men suffered a slump in form.
With just one point gained from their last four Premier League outings and exits from the FA Cup and Uefa Cup, Villa appear to have hit the buffers at just the wrong time.
Next on the agenda for midfielder Barry and his team-mates is Sunday's testing trip to title hopefuls Liverpool, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.
And the England international, who came close to moving to the Merseyside outfit during the summer, admits that Villa's recent troubles will have increased the Gunners' hopes of overhauling their rivals.
He told the Daily Star: "There are nine games to go. Now the advantage definitely lies with Arsenal.
"Arsenal will have been watching, realising that. Nine games to go, level on points, but we are low on confidence.
"However, we are one game away from a good performance and turning it around again, so we cannot worry about it too much. We have got to be positive.
"We have two tough fixtures coming up and if we deliver a performance of the season in one of them, it could catapult us to a good finish."
The Anfield trip, which is followed by an equally daunting visit to Old Trafford, is particularly badly timed, given the Reds' current form.
CharacterRafa Benitez's men have fired four goals past Real Madrid and United in their last two matches, while the Spaniard has put pen-to-paper on a new long-term contract.
Barry added: "The form we are in and the form Liverpool are in, it is two different ends of the scale.
"Hopefully, it can help us as they are on a hiding to nothing and we have got nothing to lose.
"We are being written off. Character is a big word. We have to show that until the end of the season. If the good players perform when you are really up against it, that is a good sign."