Arsenal will be hoping to make it 15 consecutive FA Cup victories as they host a strong Hull City side in a repeat of the 2014 final this weekend.
Arsene Wenger has outlined that it’s vital to build on the recent form the Gunners have managed, with both Barcelona and Manchester United coming up over the next week.
During his pre-match press conference, Wenger admitted he’ll be treating Hull just like a Premier League side, with experienced manager Steve Bruce at the helm.
Bruce has failed to achieve a win over the Gunners in two FA Cup attempts over the last two seasons, but it looks as if his squad is better prepared for this test.
They currently sit as leaders of the Championship and promotion back into the big league certainly looks likely, having been helped by two Arsenal loanees in the process.
However, despite the success of both Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden, the Tigers will have to cope without the duo as they aren’t permitted to play against their parent club.
With plenty of names gunning for a starting spot, Wenger hinted that there could be starts for Mohammed Elneny and Danny Welbeck, who is “back to his best”.
It is likely to be a shift around in defence due to the absence of Gabriel Paulista, who is hoping to recover from a thigh problem in time for the Champions League tie next Tuesday.
The boss did, however, reveal some positive news on Jack Wilshere, who is just three weeks away from making a return which will offer vital cover in midfield.
Long-term absentees Thomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla are also both missing, with it not being known when the pair are due to be back in action.
Steve Bruce admitted that his side were lucky in the injuries department this season, and will have a full squad to shuffle around following their hectic fixtures schedule.
As mentioned earlier, both Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden are out of contention due to them facing their parent club, Akpom currently has seven goals in all competitions.
There could be a place in the starting squad for youngster Josh Tymon, after the 16-year-old impressed during a run out for the England Under-17’s.
One To Watch
Arsenal – Theo Walcott
This is a big game for the winger because he’s fallen short to the likes of Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent fixtures. His goal against Leicester showed exactly what he can do in pouncing on loose balls and slotting home to change the outcome of a game. A decent run out here puts him back in the line to feature against Barcelona, so there is a lot riding on his shoulders. If Wenger opts to rest Giroud as well then Walcott may be used later on in the game to cover Danny Welbeck, so there is a real chance for him to grab a goal.
Hull City – Nick Powell
The striker is on loan from Manchester United and is expected to make his debut for the club this weekend, after missing out on chances in the Premier League. Despite him being out of favour, Powell has got significant experience across all tiers of football and will be itching to knock out the Gunners in order to help his parent club. He can be a real handful at times both in the air and on the edge of the box, but a lot of his performance will come down to how well he can gel with his new teammates.
Goalkeeper: Continuing his tradition of rotating goalkeepers for Cup games, Wenger will bring in David Ospina who may treat this game as an advert for potential transfer suitors.
Defence: Kieran Gibbs will start and despite working hard in training, will have his work cut out to compete with Nacho Monreal for the starting spot week in, week out. Chambers will come in for Bellerin whilst Koscielny has been passed fit to start.
Midfield: Bringing in Mathieu Flamini and Mohammed Elneny in front of the defence will allow us to see more of Elneny’s attributes when going forward. Flamini will provide cover whilst sitting in a deeper role, with Joel Campbell, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott all featuring in the attacking three. A mixture of youth and pace should provide an interesting approach going forward.
Forward: Danny Welbeck should come in to regain his form in the lone role as he continues to breathe down the neck of Olivier Giroud. Expect the forward to be handed a good 60-70 minutes on his full return from injury, with both Walcott and Giroud able to cover him if necessary.
CONFIRMED Arsenal XI: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Elneny, Campbell, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck
CONFIRMED Hull XI: Jakupović, Davies, Bruce, Maguire, Tymon, Taylor, Meyler, Maloney, Elmohamady, Powell, Diomande