The FA quarter-final stage kicks-off with probably the tie of the round as Arsenal welcome Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, March 8, 2014 (4:45 AM Pacific, 12:45 GMT), in what should be a spectacle between the two teams who have played the most attractive brand of football in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal arguably face the most crucial month of their campaign, where the Gunners have absolutely no margin for error if they are end their long-standing trophy drought.
Arsene Wenger’s men have slowly fallen off the pace in the league, while they look all but certain to be knocked-out of the Champions League. Therefore, the clash against Everton on Saturday could prove to be their most important match of the season as the FA Cup provides the Gunners with their best hope of winning a silverware.
Everton, meanwhile, have been enjoying a marvelous season and their young manager Roberto Martinez just keeps on impressing. Martinez was the man who led minnows Wigan Athletic to an improbable victory in the competition last season and he would certainly be looking to replicate the same success with the Toffees as well.
With Champions League football probably out of their sights, Everton will certainly give it all they’ve got in the FA Cup and if Martinez can guide his side to victory over Arsenal on Sunday, then it will be the icing on the cake in what has been a fantastic season for the team from Merseyside.
Arsenal were handed a big blow after midfielder Jack Wilshere was ruled out for at least six weeks after fracturing his foot on international duty. The injury means that the Englishman joins Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal and Abou Diaby on the sidelines, while Laurent Koscielny is also rated as a doubt for the clash after suffering a hamstring injury in midweek.
Lukasz Fabianski has been in fantastic form between the sticks for Arsenal in the FA Cup and should continue in goal, while the defence will probably consist of Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson. Koscielny will go through a late fitness test and if he is not able to recover in time for the clash, then Thomas Vermaelen should deputize for the Frenchman.
Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini should continue at the heart of the midfield, while Mesut Ozil will probably be recalled to the starting line-up after sitting out Arsenal’s last two matches. Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain will most likely be deployed on the wings while the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry will all be pushing for a start. Kim Kallstorm could also feature in the match after returning to full fitness recently.
Yaya Sanogo started in the Gunners’ last FA Cup clash against Liverpool and the young Frenchman could once again be handed a start with Olivier Giroud waiting on the wings if things do not go according to plan.
Much like for Arsenal, second-choice goalkeeper Joel Robles has been Everton’s designated custodian in the FA Cup and the young Spaniard, who lifted cup last year with Wigan, should continue in goal with Tim Howard making way.
The likes of Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Lacina Traore and Bryan Oviedo are long-term absentees and are all definitely ruled out, while captain Phil Jagielka will also miss the clash due to a hamstring problem.
In the absence of Jagielka, the impressive teenager John Stones will continue at central defence alongside the vastly experienced Sylvain Distin, while arguably the Premier League’s most dangerous full-backs in Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman will surely start either side of the centre back pairing.
The tidy duo of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will most likely start at the middle of the park with either Ross Barkley or Leon Osman deployed as the playmaker. The wings will probably be occupied by Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar, while young Gerard Deulofeu will also be in contention.
Romelu Lukaku made an instant impact since his return from injury by scoring the winner against West Ham last week and the young Belgian will be leading the line for the Toffees with Steven Naismith making way.
Arsenal (Probable XI): Fabianski; Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Jenkinson; Cazorla, Arteta, Flamini, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanogo
Everton (Probable XI): Robles; Baines, Stones, Distin, Coleman; Mirallas, McCarthy, Osman, Barry, Pienaar; Lukaku
Arsenal: W L W D L
Everton: L W L W L
08/12/2013 Arsenal 1 – 1 Everton
16/04/2013 Arsenal 0 – 0 Everton
28/11/2012 Everton 1 – 1 Arsenal
Arsenal vs Everton Prediction
The last meeting between the two teams at the Emirates was probably one of the games of the season and one cannot discount witnessing a similar spectacle on Saturday as well.
Arsenal head into the game as slight favourties, due to the fact that Everton have not won there in almost two decades. However, this is a completely different Everton side and FA Cup has taught us over the years that history counts for little in the competition when the chips are down.
The Gunner are certainly under more pressure to win the game and will look to take the game to the Toffees. But, Everton have proven that they can beat Arsenal at their own game as evidenced by their performance at the Emirates earlier on in the season and they certainly stand a good chance of earning a draw at least, from the clash.
The match is set be a spectacle with a lot of exciting football played by both sides, but Arsenal may just about edge it, due to the fact that they need the victory more than Everton. Arsenal 2-1 Everton.
Arsenal vs Everton Television Info
The match will be televised on Fox Sports 1 USA, and ITV 1 (UK).