Arsene Wenger faces a tricky selection as Arsenal begin a massive week by hosting Watford in an FA Cup quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
The Frenchman may be tempted to rest players for Wednesday’s daunting Champions League trip to Barcelona, but must realise that the FA Cup represents his best chance of silverware this season.
The Gunners are looking to become the first team to lift the trophy in three successive years since Blackburn Rovers in the 1880s, but Watford won’t roll over.
Here, CaughtOffside names the lineup which we feel Wenger should pick, finding a balance between saving key players for Barcelona and taking Watford seriously.
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GK: David Ospina
As the London Evening Standard reports, Petr Cech is one of a number of injury absentees and so the Colombian will continue to deputise in goal. Has done well stepping into Cech’s big shoes so far.
RB: Hector Bellerin
The Spaniard was rested for the 4-0 fifth-round replay win over Hull City on Tuesday, but should be recalled as part of a defensive reshuffle. Has sat out Arsenal’s last three FA Cup games.
CB: Calum Chambers
Chambers played at right-back against the Tigers, but might be needed in the centre of defence today. Per Mertesacker took a blow to the head in midweek and might be spared with Barcelona in mind.
CB: Gabriel Paulista
The Brazilian was another injury casualty of Hull’s visit to North London, but Wenger has confirmed that he has recovered from his hamstring strain. It is a good job too, because Laurent Koscielny is still out.
LB: Kieran Gibbs
The England international is in line for a third consecutive start for the first time this season, as Nacho Monreal takes a breather for what could be a very long night against Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou.
CM: Francis Coquelin
Sat out the beating of Hull through suspension after his foolish red card versus Spurs, but that rest means that Wenger may feel the Frenchman can manage two big games in short succession.
CM: Mohamed Elneny
Arsenal’s abundance of midfield injuries mean that Elneny has got his chance in recent games, and he has done a decent job. Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are all out, via The Standard.
AMR: Theo Walcott
Put a series of disappointing performances behind him with a midweek brace. His position in the team for the Barcelona game is under threat from Joel Campbell, so he needs another good display.
AMC: Alex Iwobi
The 19-year-old is the only youngster that Wenger has seriously blooded in the competition so far this season. Iwobi has started all four of their FA Cup games on course to this collision with the Hornets.
AML: Alexis Sanchez
Mesut Ozil is Arsenal’s biggest match-winner and so should be rested in the hope of a Catalonia miracle. Sanchez has that potential too, but is out of sorts and needs a good game to give him that confidence.
ST: Olivier Giroud
Ended the worst barren spell of his Arsenal career with a double of his own in midweek. Danny Welbeck might be in Wenger’s mind for the Champions League, and Giroud will aim to make him rethink.
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