Preview: Wishing For A Pre-Wembley Win

Mike Hewitt

Everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow's trip to North London.

Sunderland Team News

Steven Fletcher resumed full training on Wednesday and, though he is unlikely to start tomorrow, the returning Scotsman gives manager Gus Poyet further striking options from the bench.

Following nine changes being made for last week's cup tie with Southampton, it is likely tomorrow will see another raft of changes, and it would be no surprise if Poyet was to opt for largely the same side that will walk out at Wembley a week on Sunday.

Of course, one definite difference will be Wes Brown, with the defender still suspended for the trip to The Emirates.

Arsenal Team News

Arsene Wenger will likely welcome Olivier Giroud back into the first-team fold, the Frenchman having missed the last two games due to..err..best not say.

Perhaps Wenger's biggest selection headache will come with Mesut Ozil, with plenty suggesting it might be wise to take the off-form German out of the firing line. Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsay remain long term absentees, while Thomas Vermaelen - still suffering with a calf problem - is unlikely to feature.

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal vs Sunderland - Football tactics and formations

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Rosicky; Giroud

Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, Vergini, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole, Ki, Colback; Johnson, Borini, Altidore

Key Matchup: The Midfield Tussle

Whomever makes up the personnel on either side, it is highly likely that both teams will line up with three central midfielders tomorrow. The game will be decided on which trio performs best. If Arsenal are able to combine slick interplay with advanced positions on the field, the visitors will struggle to keep them at bay. However, if Gus Poyet's men can disrupt their hosts sufficiently and form effective triangles themselves - much as they did in their last away game, at Nwwcastle United - they may well pull off a rather unlikely success in North London.

Recent Form: WLDWL

Win: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace (Oxlade-Chamberlain 47, 73)

Loss: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (Skrtel 1, 10, Sterling 16, 52, Sturridge 20; Arteta 69 (pen))

Draw: Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United

Win: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (Oxlade-Chamberlain 16, Podolski 47; Gerrard 59 (pen))

Loss: Arsenal 0-2 Bayern Munich (Kroos 54, Muller 88)

Last Time Around: Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland 18/08/12

Sunderland's last trip to The Emirates came over a year and a half ago, as the 2012/13 season opened with a goalless raw. Arsenal found themselves coming to terms with life without Robin Van Persie, while Sunderland embarked upon Martin O'Neill's first full season in charge.

The game itself was a rather drab affair, lacking any real cutting edge. Sunderland remained resolute in defence, creating little; the Gunners failed to break down their opponents with any great frequency. Simon Mignolet set the tone for the rest of the season, impressing in goal, while Arsenal's Olivier Giroud spurned a brilliant opportunity to crown his debut with a winning goal.

The Ref: Andre Marriner

The most tanned, fake or otherwise, of the Premier League referees has overseen three of Sunderland's tussles so far this term, with the Black Cats' results improving each time.

First, Marriner took charge of the madness that was the trip to Hull City in November, dismissing both Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena, before officiating the 0-0 draw at West Ham.

His last time out in charge of the Wearsiders came in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, where he awarded the penalty that saw Fabio Borini win the game.

What They Said

Gus Poyet

We are going to play to win.

We are going to play the same way we have been doing, but it's a great opportunity to see what we can do in the big stadium against one of the best teams.

I don't think you can prepare better for a final than going to Arsenal.

It will give us a great opportunity to see whether we can play in a certain way against Manchester City.

Per Mertesacker

We will concentrate on Saturday now, because we are going through a period with a lot of games.

We will switch off from the Champions League now, and then switch on again for the Premier League on Saturday.

Roker Report Predicts

It is hard not to think that Arsenal may be ever so slightly reeling right now. They remain in touching distance of top spot, but a gruelling few weeks has no doubt took it out of them; Wednesday evening and Bayern Munich's late second goal will have hit Wenger's men like a hammer blow. Sunderland have every chance tomorrow.

Yet, this is also an Arsenal side made of sterner stuff than in previous years. As much as a win would be lovely before next week's Wembley date with destiny, Sunderland would do well to get a point at The Emirates. Expect a tight game, with the Gunners edging ahead then sealing it late on. 2-0 to Arsenal.

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