Arsenal V Middlesbrough
Sunday 15th February. 4PM. BT Sport 1
The magic of the cup sparkled in round four as Middlesbrough were just one of several sides to cause a major upset. The Championship club are now just two steps from a Wembley semi-final, but must first overcome the holders away n order to keep that dream alive.
Both sides have enjoyed great form in recent weeks and will be equally optimistic as they aim to reach the last eight of this year’s competition. Arsenal will of course be expected to win on paper, but Wenger’s men are never immune when it comes to potential upsets.
If Middlesbrough’s last cup clash is anything to go by, we could be in for a classic!
Gunners Aiming For Ninth Straight Cup Win
The holders came through rounds three and four with relative ease and will be hoping to enjoy a similarly easy ride as they welcome Middlesbrough to the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger’s men have now won eight consecutive matches in this competition, although two of those did require extra time or penalties, but did suffer a shock home defeat to Blackburn at this stage two years ago. However, the Gunners are in great home form at the moment and enter this clash on the back of eight straight victories at the Emirates in all competitions.
Arsenal will have been disappointed to see Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez pick up knocks during the midweek win over Leicester, but the Gunners are now starting to see a number of players return to form and fitness. Notably, the pair of Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud will be particularly pleasing and those two will hope to have a big say in this crucial cup clash.
With a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs, along with the list of early Premier League casualties, means that Arsenal must view this as a great chance for more silverware. Expect them to shine on Sunday.
Can Boro Cause Another Shock?
Middlesbrough are enjoying a phenomenal season under Aitor Karanka and will have no fear about heading to the Emirates, especially after the giant-killing of Manchester City in round four. However, the Championship leaders will be under no illusions as they face the Gunners.
Unlike Manchester City, Arsenal are firing on all cylinders at home so this will be a much more difficult contest for the visitors. Nonetheless, the confidence will be sky high following a run of six straight victories and that momentum could give them a real fighting chance in the capital.
The promising thing for Boro is that they’ve got genuinely talented attacking players who can cause a threat to an Arsenal defence that is always susceptible to the odd mistake. If the visitors can get the ball to Kike, Lee Tomlin and Patrick Bamford, they will always have a chance of success.
This is going to be an uphill battle for the Championship side, but you’d only write them off at your peril.
Arsenal V Middlesbrough Betting
Unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger’s men are the overwhelming favourites at the Emirates and are priced 4/9 with Bet365. However, Middlesbrough will be optimistic after their fourth round heroics and could be value at 13/2. Meanwhile, if you think this clash will go to a replay then back the draw at 7/2.
Whilst Boro’s triumph at the Etihad proved the magic is still alive and kicking, it really is difficult to see past an Arsenal victory. The extra quality, combined with home advantage, should see the Premier League hosts through.
England man Theo Walcott has returned to goals in recent weeks, bagging three in his last four appearances, and the 25-year-old will view this game as the perfect opportunity to continue his road to full recovery. If Arsenal do enjoy a rout, we’d expect him to join the party.
Theo Walcott to score anytime is 8/5 with Bet365
Wenger’s side might be fully expected to win but they will have taken note of Boro’s performance against Manchester City and will be eager to avoid a similar upset. The best way to do that is to the kill the tie as quickly as possible.
Regardless of which players start, the Gunners frontline will boast genuine quality and we’re expecting them to come out all guns blazing. At odds of 10/3, over 1.5 first half goals has to be worth a punt.
Arsenal to score over 1.5 first half goals is 10/3 with Coral