Sky Bet Championship leaders Hull City travel south to the Emirates and the Premier League’s third place side Arsenal for their FA Cup fifth round tie on Saturday lunchtime.
The Tigers will go into the game hoping to gain a win this weekend after a 0-0 draw with Brighton in midweek, whilst the Gunner’s are full of confidence following Danny Welbeck’s last minute winner to beat leaders Leicester on Sunday, the last time they were in action.
The Gunners are still fighting for silverware on three fronts this season, now just two points behind Leicester in the top flight and with a tricky Champions League tie against Barcelona coming up, while they are also seeking a third straight FA Cup.
Steve Bruce’s men will be hoping that Arsenal have their eyes on that game against the Spanish champions on Tuesday night and will field a weakened side in this match, going with Arsene Wenger’s selection policy.
However, Hull are a force to be reckoned with on their day, and will know they have the ability to shock the current cup holders.
So, here are THREE things to look out for in this intriguing FA Cup tie:
1) Third time lucky?
Despite being ‘the luck of the draw’ these two sides have met in the last three editions of this competition. Back in 2014, the sides met in the final, where Bruce’s Tigers took a 2-0 lead early on before Aaron Ramsey scored the winner late in extra time to earn the Gunner’s their first major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United.
Last year these sides were drawn together in the third round at the Emirates Stadium, where Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez helped Arsenal ease through to the fourth round 2-0.
Arsenal have won the trophy for the last two consecutive years, and now hold the record for most FA Cups won and most finals played in, taking over from United in both categories. Hence, they are unbeaten in this competition for 14 matches, a run stretching back to the 2013 fifth round and a defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
As we know, Hull were knocked out in the third round last year, after narrowly losing in the final the year before. Back in 2013, they made it to the fourth round before being knocked out to then fellow Championship side Barnsley.
Can Hull pull of a giant killing and book their place in the sixth round for the second time in three years?
2) What sort of side will Wenger field?
Arsene Wenger is well-known for resting key players in the cup competitions, as cost him back in the 2013 edition of this tournament. Furthermore, whilst giving number two ‘keeper David Ospina a run out in the Champions League group stage tie at home to Olympiacos back in the Autumn, the Colombian dropped the ball behind the goal line and cost his side defeat.
Whilst it is safe to say that Wenger has learnt his lesson, it is still a mystery as to what sort of side he will field come Saturday at 12.45pm. With players coming back from injury, he has plenty of options amongst his squad.
Based on his selection of his team for January’s fourth round tie at home to Burnley, City fans should expect number one goalkeeper Petr Cech to sit this one out on the bench, with Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs possibly coming in in the full-back department. Laurent Koscielny came off with a dead leg in their match last weekend, so it is unlikely Wenger will want to risk him, with Gabriel possibly coming into the XI if fit.
As mentioned above, Welbeck came on for the last ten minutes of Sunday’s win over Leicester, so could be in line to make a first start for the club since April last year as he looks to prove to Roy Hodgson that he deserves a place in England’s 23-man European Championship squad.
Mohammed Elneny was handed his first and only start in an Arsenal shirt so far during the victory over Burnley last time out in this competition, so he may well start ahead of former Charlton player Francis Coquelin. Also expect to see either Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain start alongside him in central midfield.
3) Who will win the game for the Tigers?
All the talk in the build-up will be about Arsenal’s match winners – Sanchez, Walcott, Ozil – and whether they can continue this extraordinary FA Cup unbeaten streak. However, Hull won’t roll over for them. So who will win the match for the Tigers?
Arsenal like to dominate possession, and if that’s the case than Allan McGregor will probably need to have a good game if there is any chance for Hull to progress. Currently the ‘keeper behind the second best defence in the Championship, he is going to have his work cut-out but is more than capable of containing Arsenal’s flair players.
Abel Hernandez is also in great form, with 16 goals and two assists in the Championship all season. He has had a direct involvement in eights of the Tiger’s goals in their last seven games, that’s 62% of all of Hull’s strikes in that period! Definitely Hull’s man in form, can he be the one to make the difference on Saturday?
Sam Clucas also has five goals and seven assists in the league this season, so, if he starts, expect him to give Arsenal’s defence a good battle.
Hull fans…What do you think? Are you optimistic that your side could get a result? Or is it better for Steve Bruce just to concentrate on winning the league this season? Let us know in the comments below!