Venue: KC Stadium
Kick-off: 14:05 (BST)
TV Schedule: NBC Sports Network (6:05 AM Pacific)
Premier League surprise package Hull City welcome Arsenal to the KC Stadium on Sunday in what will be a dress rehearsal of the FA Cup Final to take place later next month.
Almost certain of retaining their Premier League status and awaiting the biggest game in their 110-year old history, Hull City fans are certainly in dreamland. Not many expected Steve Bruce’s side to do so well and the way they have been punching above their weight all season, has been admirable to see.
However, considering the fact that the table is so tightly packed at the moment, Hull are not completely safe yet. While it might take a tremendous collapse for Hull to go down, the Tigers certainly need to pick up some points in order to mathematically allay fears of relegation.
Arsenal are the visitors on Sunday and while three points are of importance for Hull, a win against the Gunners could hand Steve Bruce’s men a huge psychological edge heading into the showpiece event at Wembley next month.
Three points may not be the be all and end all for Hull on Sunday but Arsenal certainly need to pick up maximum points in order to secure the fourth and final Champions League spot. The Gunners were handed a huge boost with the loss suffered by Everton in midweek and they certainly should now look to capitalize.
Arsenal’s season may have taken a turn for the worse in the last few couple months, but it is of paramount importance for the Gunners to secure fourth spot as well as gather momentum heading into the FA Cup final as they look to end their painful nine-year trophy drought.
Steve Bruce will still be without the services of Allan McGregor, Robbie Brady, Paul McShane and Joe Dudgeon for the clash but has no fresh injury concern.
Bruce has tended to switched between a 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in recent times and it will be interesting to see which formation the Englishman elects to go with on Sunday.
Steve Harper will be deputizing in goal for McGregor while the defence will probably consist of Liam Rosenior, James Chester, Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa.
The solid duo of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore will continue in midfield while Ahmed Elmohamady and David Meyler will provide the engine for the Tigers. George Boyd, Robert Koren and Stephen Quinn are also in contention.
Bruce will be able to call on the services of star strikers Shane Long and Nickica Jelavic for the clash against Arsenal after the duo were ineligible in the FA cup semifinal against Sheffield United which means that Sone Aluko, Yannick Sagbo and Matty Fryatt will once again have to do with a place on the bench.
Arsene Wenger has been handed a double boost ahead of the clash with the news that Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal have recovered from their respective injuries and are in contention.
The return of Nacho Monreal means that Thomas Vermaelen will probably drop to the bench, with Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna completing the back four in front of Wojciech Szczesny.
Kim Kallstorm was impressive in his full debut against West Ham United in midweek and should continue in the starting lineup alongside Mikel Arteta in midfield while Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and two goal hero Lukas Podolski will most probably provide the support to the lone striker Olivier Giroud. Ozil may not be risked from the start, considering he has just return from a long layoff.
The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo are also in contention and could make a start as well. Jack Wilshere, Theo Waclott, Abou Diaby and Kieran Gibbs are all still missing due to various injuries.
Hull City (Probable XI): Harper; Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler; Long, Jelavic
Arsenal (Probable XI): Szczesny; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Kallstorm, Arteta, Podolski; Giroud
Hull City: W L L W W
Arsenal: D D L D* W
*Arsenal won on penalties
05/12/2013 Arsenal 2 – 0 Hull City
Heading into the game, Arsenal probably need the three points more than Hull City. However, that being said, Hull are not entirely safe yet and could also do with the three points.
However, one gets the feeling that the game holds much more importance than the three points at stake, in terms of the psychological edge one of the two teams may get heading into the FA Cup with a victory on Sunday.
Both team’s run of form has been a bit patchy and although Arsenal do have a better side, the match looks set to be a tight one as Hull City do not give any team an easy ride at the KC Stadium.
Arsenal should claim victory on the day but the win looks set to be a narrow one for the Gunners with the odd goal probably deciding the game.
Hull City 1 – 2 Arsenal