Middlesbrough Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups
The FA Cup fifth round kicked off yesterday with some teams picking their sixth round tickets and while there were no draws to earn replays, Blackburn’s 4-1 demolition of Stoke was a message to Premier League teams that there are certainly no pushovers in this competition. Some may feel that Geoff Cameron’s red card tilted the odds in Blackburn’s favor but the scores were level when he received his marching orders. Elsewhere, my compatriot, Brown Ideye turned up the style in West Brom 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, another compatriot of mine, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, made his return to English football as he scored the winner in Reading’s win against Derby County, and finally, Liverpool’s resurgence continued as they defeated Crystal Palace.
Blackburn, Reading, West Brom and Liverpool have booked their quarterfinal tickets but they’d be anxiously waiting for the results of today’s FA Cup fixtures. Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, would take on fellow strugglers, Leicester City, Bradford City, fresh from their triumphant run at Stamford Bridge hosts Sunderland and defending champions, Arsenal, would take on Middlesbrough.
Boro are in a very rich vein of form and they’re currently second in the Skybet Championship following their 2-1 win over Blackpool in mid-week. Aitor Karanka’s men have the same points with the table toppers, AFC Bournemouth, but have a lesser goal difference. They’re currently on a 10-match unbeaten run which includes six successive victories, so the Gunners will have their work cut out for them. The last time both sides met was as far back as 2009, with Cesc Fabregas getting both goals in a 2-0 victory. This is the eighth time Arsenal and Middlesbrough have been drawn together in the FA Cup, with Arsenal winning five of the previous seven and Boro two.
Arsenal fans would get a chance to see the new signing, Gabriel Paulista, today. He has been doing his bit to settle in and learn the language but this would be a good platform to begin his Arsenal career. Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference that Wojciech Szczesny would feature ahead of David Ospina, which makes it clearly evident that he’s officially Arsenal’s No. 2, till you know, an injury or a blunder from Ospina would bring him back to the first team. The defense would be shuffled up a bit with Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers coming in for Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin. I would expect Laurent Koscielny to be rest which essentially means that Per Mertesacker will partner Gabriel in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.
In midfield, Jack Wilshere just returned to full fitness but I wouldn’t expect him to start straight away. Maybe a couple of minutes in the second half would do him some good ahead of the all-important clash against AS Monaco. Francis Coquelin would get a breather with Mathieu Flamini protecting the back four in his stead while I see Tomas Rosicky partnering Mesut Ozil in the middle of the park. In attack, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are still in need of more games and I see them flanking Olivier Giroud that would spearhead the attack.
Arsenal: Sanchez (knee), Ramsey (hamstring), Gnabry (lack of match fitness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder)
Middlesbrough: Ayala (hip), Williams (Achilles), Damia (knee), Forshaw (cup-tied), Kalas (cup-tied)
- Last Five Games: W W W L W
- Last Result: Arsenal 2 Leicester 1
- Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (18)
- Last Five Games: W W W W W
- Last Result: Blackpool 1 M’Boro 2
- Leading Goalscorer: Grant Leadbitter (12)
Prediction: Arsenal 3 Middlesbrough 1
See you in the quarterfinals.
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