Arsenal face a trip to Preston for their third round FA Cup tie on Saturday night

Arsene Wenger is targeting his seventh FA Cup triumph, a feat that would see him surpass Aston Villa’s George Ramsay and seal Arsenal’s 13th winners medal. Simon Grayson, Preston North End’s manager, will be hoping to pull off one of the regular “giant killing” victories we see in the FA Cup during most years.

Arsenal will be taking this tournament a little more seriously having already been knocked out of the EFL Cup by Southampton. Despite this, Wenger has said that he will be resting key players for the game. Arsenal mounted a stunning comeback against Bournemouth in midweek and will be full of confidence going into this fixture.

Preston, on the other hand, are currently 11th in the Championship and have only won once at home in their last six matches, so they have a huge task ahead of them if they want to overcome Arsenal.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Olivier Giroud (3rd L) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's third goal with his team mate Alexis Sanchez (3rd R) during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on January 3, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud (3rd L) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team’s third goal with his team mate Alexis Sanchez (3rd R) during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on January 3, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo courtesy Warren Little/Getty Images)

Probable Line-Ups and Tactics

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger confirmed that Laurent Koscielny, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech will all be rested while Mesut Ozil has returned to training after a bout of illness, but may not make the squad if Wenger chooses to let him regain full fitness before risking him. Speaking ahead of the game, Wenger issued this injury update :

“We might have a problem with Lucas because he injured his ankle. Coming back, the closest is Walcott but he is still not ready, Gibbs will not be ready so I don’t think will be coming back into the squad,” he said, according to the club’s official website.

“(Ozil) is coming in today, and will be assessed by the doctor but he has been in bed for two weeks so I cannot imagine I will involve him on Saturday.”

“We will play with 90 per cent of the squad, I will rest Koscielny because he came off with fatigue, of course Ospina will play, maybe Alexis I will rest certainly, but the rest will play. Coquelin is out for three or four weeks now, it is his hamstring. I say three or four weeks because it is a hamstring and he came off.”

Danny Welbeck is still recovering from a knee injury and although he has begun training, is not expected to feature tomorrow night. Santi Cazorla (ankle) remains a long-term absentee, while Per Mertesacker (knee) is still continuing his rehabiliation.

Arsenal will be looking to heap the pressure on Preston right from the get go, and will be hoping to wrap things up early so that their younger players can get a run out while their senior players can get some rest during what has been a hectic festive schedule.

Probable Line-Up (4-2-3-1) : Ospina, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Monreal, Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide, Giroud

Preston North End

Preston, who have enjoyed two good results in the Championship in their last outings, will likely set up much more defensively in an attempt to stifle Arsenal, which could see striker Simon Makienok lead the line alone.

Midfielder John Welsh is a doubt for Preston as he continues his recovery from a calf injury, while Jermaine Beckford will definitely miss out as he serves his 4-match ban.

Calum Woods also remains a long-term absentee for Preston, and manager Simon Grayson is expected to name an unchanged side from the one that defeated Burton. Expect Preston to sit deep and try to hit Arsenal on the counter, during which midfielder Ben Pearson will be key in linking the defence and attack.

Probable Line-Up: Maxwell, Clarke, Wright, Huntington, Cunningham, Browne, Pearson, Johnson, Doyle, Makienok, Robinson

Key Stats

  • These are the only two clubs in English football history to go a season without losing a single game. Preston North End achieving the feat in 1889 whilst Arsenal completed it in 2004.
  • This will be the first FA Cup meeting between the sides since January 1999, when Arsenal triumphed 4-2 at Deepdale in the third round.
  • In three previous FA Cup meetings at Deepdale, there have been 15 goals between these sides (seven for Preston, eight for Arsenal) at an average of five per game.
  • The Lilywhites have won one of their last 15 FA Cup games against top-flight opposition, their solitary win a 4-1 away hammering of Derby in January 2008.

Prediction

Arsenal 3-0 Preston

Preston have not had the strongest season so far and will be hard-pressed to shut down Arsenal’s attack. This should be an easy victory for Arsene Wenger’s side, and Preston are unlikely to threaten David Ospina’s goal, except from set pieces.

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