Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday February 15 2013
16th February, 2013
Arsenal welcome Blackburn Rovers to North London looking to qualify for the F.A. Cup Quarter Final and banish their trophy drought.
Rovers meanwhile, will see the tie as blessed relief from a tumultuous league campaign, which has seen them total 5 different managers already.
Arsene Wenger believes Blackburn have the quality in their squad to cause Arsenal problems, despite recent woes, 'We are favourites, but Blackburn have nothing to lose and if you look at their squad, they have Premier League players. The F.A. Cuop looks more reachable, but you don't know how tough it will be.
The players who will not start for us are the ones who have played many games recently.'
Meanwhile, Michael Appleton is hoping that a cup tie will relax his Rovers side who have had a disappointing season in the Championship, '"I think it is certainly a weekend off in terms of the league fixtures," said Appleton. "With the FA Cup game it does give us an opportunity to enjoy the match more than we would in a normal league game.
"In saying that, I don`t think you can relax too much going to the Emirates against an Arsenal side.
"Three days after they play us they are going to play in a Champions League tie against a fantastic German side in Bayern Munich, so we know that the task is going to be very difficult.
"But we`ll go there, we`ll have a go and see if we can make a surprise."
Arsenal will give late fitness tests to Jack Wilshere (thigh) who is £50-50' acccording to his manager, Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (ankle) described as '90-10' by Arsene Wenger.
Carl Jenkinson serves a one match suspension, Andre Santos has joined Gremio on loan, but Gervinho returns after African Nations duty. Kieran Gibbs (thigh) is out. Lukasz Fabianski played for the U-21s on Monday, but still will not be included.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Miquel, Monreal, Arteta, Coquelin, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, S.Cazorla, Walcott, Chamberlain, Podolski, Arshavin, Giroud, Gervinho.
One of the minor tragedies of our season is that we've not seen as much of Little Mozart as we would have liked. Having compromised his fitness, understandably, to play in his last international tournament last summer, he has struggled for fitness.
But with Cazorla and Wilshere carrying knocks, Rosicky is likely to be thrust into the starting line up as our creative pivot. It was around this time last year that Rosicky emerged as one of Arsenal's premier performers. He will hope that Saturday can kick start his season.
The sad news for Arsenal is that goalkeeper Paul Robinson is out with a back injury. Loan signing DJ Campbell is cup tied. But loan signing David Bentley isn't and goes straight into the squad.
Adam Henley (hamstring), David Dunn (calf), Leon Best (knee), Dickson Etuhu (knee) and Josh King (hamstring) also miss out.
Blackburn Rovers (from): Kean, Usai, Orr, Henrique, Givet, Dann, Morris, G.Hanley, Rekik, Martin Olsson, Nunes, Lowe, Marcus Olsson, Murphy, Williamson, Pedersen, Rhodes, Nuno Gomes, Goodwillie, Kazim-Richards, Forrester.
Blackburn will look to sit deep and hit Arsenal on the break. Danny Murphy will hold the key to both of those objectives.
He will look to help frustrate Arsenal's attacking midfielders and then look to hit the in form Jordan Rhodes on the break.
Arsenal have drawn Blackburn in the F.A. Cup seven times, with Arsenal winning through on four of those occasions.
The most recent tie saw Blackburn beat Arsenal in the 5th Round after a replay in 2007. The Gunners have previously defeated Rovers in the 2005 semi final in Cardiff and the 2001 Quarter Final at Highbury.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 34 F.A. Cup ties against sides from lower divisions. Sheffield United were the last lower tier club to knock them out in 1996.
Arsenal are also unbeaten in their last 34 home ties. Leeds were the last team to beat Arsenal at home in the Cup back in 1997.
Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes has 9 goals in his last 10 games.
The two games between Blackburn and Arsenal produced 15 goals last season.
Blackburn Rovers have won the F.A. Cup six times, but haven't lifted the famous trophy since 1928.
The referee will be Mike Dean. We have won one of the last seventeen games he has officiated. He clearly hates us.
I'm hoping the players will be a bit more focused than the fans, as all the talk this week seems to have been about Bayern. I expect the likes of Chamberlain, Gervinho, Rosicky, maybe even Miquel to start this game. But it ought to be enough. I'm going for 2-0 to Arsenal, with second half goals from Podolski and Chamberlain.
Arsenal are at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Blackburn are away at Hull City on the same evening.
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Date:Friday February 15 2013
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