Arsenal – Everton (FA Cup)
Saturday, at the Emirates, Arsenal and Everton will fight each other for the opportunity to go further in the FA Cup, preferably right to the finals. For Arsène Wenger’s men is looking more and more as their best chance of success this season. Their run in the Champions League is practically over, unless they perform a miracle in Munich on Tuesday, and their contend for the Premier League title is fading by the round. As for the Toffees, Martinez sees the FA silverware as a gateway to next season’s European competitions. There is a lot more at play that a mere semi, who will take the lead?
Despite of the break Arsenal‘s football department has been busy these days. They have announced Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky new deals and now is Aaron Ramsey’s time. The midfielder’s influence and importance in the team is being recognized by the board in the form of a new five year contract with a substantial wage increase. The Welsh will then become Gunners’ second-highest paid player, topped only by Mesut Ozil. Ramsey’s form this season has been remarkable and his contribution was instrumental in putting and maintaining Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. He was deeply missed in these two moths he has been on the sidelines. Have him back in training with an improved situation is just the boost Arsène Wenger’s side needs for this final stretch of the season.
Last Saturday Arsenal failed the Britannia test and in so doing they allowed Liverpool to leapfrog them and Chelsea to widen the gap. They are now in 3rd place with 59 points, as many as the Merseysiders, and with City breathing at their necks two games shorter. Certainly an heavy blow in their title aspirations. And I dare say the worst is yet to come. Arsenal’s remaining division schedule includes clashes with Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, all within a months time. And let’s not forget Tuesday’s travel to Munich and the two possible cup ties ahead if they progress in the FA Cup’s quarter-finals.
Lukasz Fabianski has been in goal in all the FA Cup matches, no reason this one would be different. Abou Diaby, Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott are old news on the Gunners injury list. Jack Wilshere is fresh. He will once again be out for up to six weeks with a fractured foot sustained in Wednesday’s friendly against Denmark. January signing Kim Kallstrom has recovered from his back injury and is expected to make his first appearance for Arsenal in the cup tie, probably coming from the bench.
Probable line-up: Fabianski – Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs – Arteta, Flamini – Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla – Sanogo.
Roberto Martinez admitted this was not the best of times to face the Gunners in their home court. They will try to take advantage of the crowd and track-record at the Emirates (16-3-4 in all competitions) to receive a boost for the hard fixtures ahead. The Toffees other visit to the Emirates this season, in a League game, was a 1-1 draw in which Roberto Martinez men dominated for stretches of time. Surely they won’t make it easier this turn around either.
Romelu Lukaku celebrated his return to action with the winner that gave the Toffees the three points against West Ham United. It’s only logical he maintains his post. Roberto Martinez definitely ruled Phil Jagielka for the cup fixture but is confidant he will be ready for the next League tie. Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Arouna Koné and Lacina Traoré are packing up the treatment room.
Probable line-up: Howard – Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines – McCarthy, Barry – Mirallas, Osman, Pienaar – Lukaku.
Arsenal’s progression in the competition was made at the expenses of Tottenham (2-0), Coventry (4-0) and Liverpool (2-1). Everton had to beat Queens Park Rangers (4-0), Stevenage (0-4) and Swansea (3-1) to reach the quarter-finals.