Round two of the Arsenal-fest is the late kick off courtesy of ITV tomorrow evening. Last week the Mags gave us some top notch entertainment in this slot, so let's hope we don't return the favour.
The roles have been reversed going into this fixture as it is now Arsenal's turn to head into the game with weary legs and jet-lagged heads (hopefully) and it will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger sets his side out in comparison to his selection for last weekend's meeting in the league.
At least there will be no Thierry Henry this time around...
Sunderland Team News:
Martin O'Neill will no doubt have been relieved to have been able to allow his players some time to recuperate this week following a hectic schedule as many of his squad were showing obvious signs of fatigue.
Chris Young from the Sunderland Echo detailed via Twitter on Thursday that both Lee Cattermole and Matthew KiIlgallon had returned to light training, with the centre half in contention for tomorrow's game and the skipper facing a late fitness test and given an outside chance of figuring in the game.
Nicklas Bendtner has also returned to training this week complete with his protective headwear although he is obviously ineligible to face his parent club but O'Neill will be glad to see him back in the fold.
The game has come too soon for David Vaughan, Titus Bramble and Wes Brown who still face further recuperation time on the sidelines.
The only change I expect to see O'Neill making would be to return Fraizer Campbell and Sebastian Larsson back to their more natural positions as apposed to those which they adopted last time out. The break will have done Seb the world of good and can now be relied on to be able to track Oxlade-Chamberlain whilst Campbell's return to the
forward line will allow us to impose our will on the game more rather than offer Arsenal the amount of respect we did in the league tie.
Arsenal Team News:
Wenger's defensive crisis went from bad to worse in Milan on Wednesday night as Laurent Koscielny was forced off with a knee injury during the humbling defeat in the Champions League. He will also be worried by the form of Thomas Vermaelen who looks short of match fitness following his return from a spell on the sidelines with an Achilles problem. Couple this with Per Mertesacker's unfortunate injury picked up last time the two sides met and the Frenchman could be forced to play Alex Song in a defensive role come Saturday evening.
The return of Kieran Gibbs will have pleased his manager although, like Vermaelen, the young full back looked "rusty" at the San Siro which was to be expected as it was his first game since October.
The burgeoning talent that is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was excluded from Wenger's starting eleven midweek but you would put good money on him being recalled for tomorrow's fixture.
SAFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Campbell
Arsenal: Szczensy, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna, Arteta, Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Ramsey, Van Persie
Sunderland and Arsenal met in the last FA Cup tie at Roker Park in January of 1997 and Dennis Bergkamp opened the scoring in stunning style with the Dutchmen pirouetting on the ball, before dancing into the area and placing a curling effort into the far top corner past a helpless Lionel Perez.
The replay was put to bed when Merson, who has ran Sunderland ragged all day, put in a cross for Stephen Hughes to head home.
A bad day at the office for The Black Cats but few will forget another touch of brilliance from Bergkamp that had even Peter Reid on the sidelines and the fans of the terracing applauding.
Get Rich Quick:
You would hope that Sunderland would offer more of an attacking threat this time out, with it being the cup there is little to lose and neither side would be too keen on a replay which would come in the blink of an eye on Tuesday night. With that in mind, from a home fan's perspective you would hope that the pace of Sessegnon and Campbell as a front pair could cause a relatively makeshift Arsenal defence problems. With that said here are my punts for the game...
- Both Fraizer Campbell and Stephane Sessegnon are available as first first goalscorer at around 7/1, which is a decent price given their recent knack of finding the back of the net.
- It would be foolish to underestimate our guests as they have some serious firepower upfront and the man that finds himself on the scoresheet more often that not, Robin Van Persie, is available as an anytime goalscorer for evens.
- Sunderland to reverse the league fixture and win 2-1? Available for around 9/1.
Song For Whoever:
As if it hasn't been proven enough already this season with the number of stunning goals we have witnessed from the lads we need to take the game to Arsenal this time around, move Campbell back upfront and, well, shoot to thrill!
PULL THE TRIGGER, YEAH!
Hopefully Arsenal will still be sulking from their midweek defeat and following last weeks showing I can see no reason why, following a full weeks rest, we cant impose our authority on the game a little more and keep this cup run going. I'm going for a reverse of the league fixture and a 2-1 win for the lads!
HA'WAY THE LADS!