Arsenal welcome fellow Premier League side Watford to the Emirates Stadium this weekend, as they look to book a spot at Wembley.
Arsene Wenger’s side are on course to make it three consecutive semi-finals in the FA Cup, but will have a task on their hands in terms of squad selection.
Lately the Gunners have suffered a series of serious injuries, with Aaron Ramsey the latest midfielder to join the sidelines after suffering a blow during the mid-week tie with Hull.
That news won’t come as too much of a disappointment to Sunday afternoon’s action, with the Welshman expected to be rested ahead of Barcelona anyway.
But with a successful Premier League campaign behind them, Watford aren’t a side to take lightly and Quique Flores would love a trophy to cap a remarkable campaign.
When: Sunday 13th March, 13:30GMT
Where: BT Sport (coverage starts from 13:00GMT)
Last Time Out: Watford 0 – 3 Arsenal
With the Aaron Ramsey news coming as a big blow to Arsenal’s title challenge, there were several positive updates to relieve some nervous supporters.
The partnership of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel is expected to continue after they were both cleared to rejoin training following minor injuries on Tuesday night.
That pairing will be inevitable with Laurent Koscielny set to miss out, but he’s looking good and it should be a matter of days now, possibly in time for Barcelona.
Petr Cech remains sidelined and is expected to be the first back from our current crop of injured stars, meaning David Ospina will take advantage of this rare bit of game time.
Injury List: P. Cech, L. Koscielny, A. Ramsey, S. Cazorla, J. Wilshere, A. Oxlade-Chamberlain, T. Rosicky
The Hornets have managed to sustain a good run despite a few knocks to some of their key players, but Flores has plenty of room to change things around this weekend.
The good news for the away fans is that their are no fresh injury concerns, but they will be without the deadly Jurado, who is a week too short of making a return.
Many of the remaining injuries are slight knocks which include the 27-year-old Craig Cathcart, who won’t be rushed back just for this game.
Injury List: M. Britos, C. Cathcart, J. Ekstrand, R. Gilmartin, T. Hoban, Jurado
One To Watch
Arsenal – Theo Walcott
Two goals in mid-week gave the winger some much needed confidence, and with one eye on the Champions League Wenger can afford to have Walcott at his disposal again.
The 26-year-old is struggling to find some form but the FA Cup has provided him with a chance to shine again, something that is desperately needed given last weeks team line-up.
Wenger opted to play the more central minded Ramsey on the flanks ahead of Walcott, which is a clear sign that the English international is out of favour at the moment.
What Theo must now do is ensure he continues this goalscoring run, and at least show that he’s still up for a fight when it comes to regaining a place in the Premier League.
Watford – Etienne Capoue
Arsenal are going to suffer more of an attacking threat than in mid-week, and the starting point for a lot of that will come through this man.
The former Spurs man will have hatred for Arsenal in his DNA, and his work rate has proven to be fundamental when trying to stop the big boys from scoring.
As well as playing in the holding midfield role, Capoue can also be a danger on the edge of the area, and will be itching to test a goalkeeper that hasn’t featured regularly this season.
Capoue could well be the most important man in a yellow shirt on Sunday, and if Arsenal are going to break get in on goal they’ll have to find a way to out-fox the Frenchman.
Playing with the familiar formation of 4-2-3-1, Arsene Wenger will have to ensure he gets the right balance in order to win this game and have a chance against Barcelona.
Playing with two defensively minded holding midfielders has helped in their last two fixtures, and Mohammed Elneny looks as if he could control the midfield by himself.
The attack is key though, and this will be Alex Iwobi’s biggest test since coming into the first team picture, so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with Premier League opposition.
Olivier Giroud grabbed two goals against Hull City, something that you could see lifted a weight off his shoulders, he’ll be picked over Welbeck who can prepare for Barcelona.
Predicted XI: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Campbell, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud
Watford have enjoyed a good rest since their 1-0 loss to Leicester last Sunday, and it’ll be a familiar looking squad to the one that faced the Premier League table toppers.
Their old school approach to formation paid off in the first half of the season with the partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo giving them the option of playing 4-4-2.
For this tie they’ll have to carry balance throughout the side and to do that they’ll want a good set of experience in the starting eleven, so expect the likes of Capoue, Deeney and Ben Watson.
This is a tie they’d love to get through, but it’s also a run of fixtures that could see their league form drop off in the final few weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of side turn up.
Predicted XI: Pantillimon, Nyom, Britos, Prodl, Holebas, Abdi, Watson, Behrami, Capoue, Deeney, Ighalo
Arsenal 1 – 0 Watford
This won’t be the high intensity game we’re all hoping for, and with the fact that so many fans could be missing I don’t think there will be the drive.
However, Watford have fallen short in recent games and Arsenal have too many players fighting for their place, so it should be a simple game for the Gunners.
Arsenal need to progress in this tie and can’t afford another fixture in their already hectic schedule, so it’s win or bust in my eyes.
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