Emirates Stadium, London
March 08, 2014; 12:45 BST
Arsenal FC host Everton FC in the highly anticipated FA Cup Quarter-Final clash at the Emirates, as the Gunners look to keep alive their hopes of winning a title this season. The last three encounters between these two sides in the league have ended in a draw and it will be a similarly close affair in this game as well. Interestingly Everton haven’t won against Arsenal in their last 19 away matches, although they did win the last meeting between these two sides in this competition back in 1981.
This clash has been provided greater importance following Arsenal’s faltering title challenge and a disappointing first leg loss against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The FA Cup seems like their best chance to end their trophy drought this season and they will need to deliver against Everton. Similarly for Everton, this is great opportunity to cash in on their wonderful season so far, and Martinez to win his first trophy in his new job. Considering the quality in both these teams, this is almost sure to be a classic.
Team news and tactics
Arsene Wenger has a lot of injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture. Jack Wilshere is the latest addition to this never ending list as the Arsenal midfielder picked up a hairline fracture on his left leg during England’s friendly against Denmark. Wilshere is now expected to be out of action for eight weeks and will be in a race against time to be fit before the England World Cup squad is selected by Roy Hodgson.
Wilshere’s absence will be a big blow for the Gunners during this difficult stage of the season as they are already missing key players such as Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Ramsey and Arsenal’s new signing Kim Kallstrom is expected to return before the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur later this month. Wenger has also confirmed doubts about the fitness of Laurent Koscielny after the French international missed the friendly against Netherlands with hamstring problem. Although initial scans didn’t reveal anything serious, Wenger insisted that the defender will undergo another test before the game to confirm his availability for selection.
Arsene Wenger has also stated in his pre-match press conference that the upcoming Champions League match against Bayern Munich won’t have any effect on his team selection as the FA Cup now has a higher priority for the Gunners. He is expected to make as many as five changes to the side that produced a disappointing performance against Stoke City in their last league game.
Lukasz Fabianksi will return to goal in place of Fabianski, while Thomas Vermaelen will replace the injured Laurent Koscielny, in case the Frenchman fails his late fitness test. In the midfield, Mathieu Flamini, who earned a lot of praise from Wenger for his contribution to the side, will replace the injured Wilshere as he resumes his partnership with Mikel Arteta in front of the defence.
The Arsenal attack looked toothless against Stoke City and Wenger is expected to make three changes to it in this game. Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski will make way for Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Yaya Sanogo is likely to continue his FA Cup stint, replacing Olivier Giroud upfront.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Cazorla, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanogo
Like Arsene Wenger, Roberto Martinez will also be missing a lot of first team players ahead of this fixture. In fact Everton have lost some of their early season momentum recently due to a lot of injury concerns, specially upfront, although the return of Romelu Lukaku has provided them with a big boost during this crucial stage.
Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone and Lacina Traore are all unavailable for selection currently due to fitness concerns. Phil Jagielka, who missed Everton’s 1-0 win over West Ham with a hamstring injury, will undergo a late fitness test ahead of this game, but it seems unlikely that the experienced defender will recover in time for this. There are also some concerns about the fitness of Antolin Alcaraz, who is suffering from muscle fatigue.
Jagielka’s absence means 19-year-old Steve Stones will continue in the center of the defence alongside Sylvain Distin. The youngster produced a solid performance against the Hammers in the last game as Everton managed to keep a clean sheet after five matches. Martinez is unlikely to make too many changes to the starting eleven in fielded in the last game, but the one he will make is an important one. Romelu Lukaku, who scored the winner in against West Ham after coming on as a substitute, will start his first match for Everton since the 1-1 draw against West Brom back in January. His return to the side will provide them with a huge lift, specially considering how they have struggled for goals recently.
Everton will be looking to exploit Arsenal’s defensive weakness in the wide areas, specially down the left hand side which has been exposed a lot this season. Kieran Gibbs does have the tendency of being caught out of position at times and with Santi Cazorla provide minimal help defensively, the England left back can be exposed by Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Howard (GK); Coleman, Stone, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Osman, Pienaar; Lukaku
Players to watch-out for: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal); Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Blast from the past