Arsenal are desperate to avoid being the victims of a second cup upset this season as they travel to Brighton for their FA Cup fourth-round tie on Saturday.
A defeat to the Championship outfit wouldn’t rank as nearly as big a shock as their defeat to fourth-tier Bradford in the Capital One Cup last month. But it would still be a bitter pill, given that the FA Cup is the club’s best opportunity this campaign to end their eight-year trophy drought.
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has said that the players won’t be taking anything for granted at the AMEX Stadium.
“You’ve got to have a lot of respect for all teams, especially in these cup competitions,” he explained, according to Arsenal’s official website.
“When we went out to Bradford, the week before I think they lost 2-0 to Barnet in the league. That’s football for you and especially in the cup, magical things and results and upsets can happen.
“You’ve got to approach every game as if it was a Premier League game and the FA Cup’s a massive competition. We want to do really well in it and we want to get to the final and win it. We’re going to have to go to Brighton expecting a tough game, because they can play football. They’ve got players in their team who are committed at the same time.”
Arsenal should arrive on England’s south coast in fine spirits after a second-half dismantling of West Ham on Wednesday to record a 5-1 victory.
Also providing a boost is the return to fitness of Tomas Rosicky after his latest injury. The Czech midfielder, who has made just one start this season, is likely to begin on the bench. Abou Diaby is also set to return after illness. Missing, though, will be defender Thomas Vermaelen and midfielders Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin.
Brighton have every reason to be confident themselves as they welcome the Premier League giants. Gus Poyet’s side are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions and lie just outside the Championship’s playoff places.
They have also already taken one Premier League scalp in the FA Cup this season, with a deserved 2-0 victory over Newcastle in round three.
Brighton may have defender Bruno available for selection after close to a month on the sidelines. Recently signed from Almeria, goalkeeper Leonardo Ulloa may be given a debut.
D: Lopez, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge
M: Bridcutt, Orlandi, Hammond
F: Barnes. Mackail-Smith, Vicente
D: Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs
M: Wilshere, Ramsey
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski
Prediction: Brighton are in good form and possess the joint second-best defensive record in the Championship this season. But Brighton’s neat passing game is likely to be preferred by Arsenal to a blood-and-thunder lower league side. The Gunners should progress at the first time of asking.
Brighton 1-3 Arsenal
Where to watch: The FA Cup fourth-round tie will kick-off at 10 a.m. eastern time. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go following the match.