Arsenal v Tottenham
Saturday 4th January. 5.15pm ITV1
The third round of the FA Cup isn’t something that is synonymous with excitement where supporters of Premier League clubs are concerned nowadays. However, football’s oldest domestic cup competition will generate plenty of excitement on Saturday when two of English football’s oldest rivals lock horns.
Arsenal host Tottenham at the Emirates in what is undoubtedly the plum tie. The bitter north London rivals haven’t met in the FA Cup since 2001 when the Gunners prevailed 2-1 in a semi-final clash at Old Trafford. And while it’s a place in the round four rather than the final at stake this time, there is bound to be fireworks nevertheless.
Put simply, neither of these heavyweights will want to suffer a third-round K.O.
Both Arsene Wenger and Tim Sherwood have selection headaches following the congested festive fixture list. In addition to long-term absentees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby, the Gunners will also be without Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Mesut Ozil, Nicklas Bendtner and Olivier Giroud.
The visitors are in a similar situation, with Andros Townsend, Jan Vertonghen, Jermaine Defoe, Paulinho, Sandros and Younes Kaboul all expected to miss out. In addition, the resurgent Emmanuel Adebayor is also a major doubt after being carried off on a stretcher during Spurs’ victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to think that neither manager will want to field a drastically weakened team, with Wenger desperate to end Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought and Sherwood keen to build on the momentum of the Lilywhites victories against Southampton and United in their last two league matches.
Podolski and Soldado to lead the lines?
In the absence of Bendtner and Giroud, Lukas Podolski looks poised to lead the line for the Gunners, though fellow German Serge Gnabry is also likely to be in the mix. Theo Walcott, who has scored five goals in as many matches since returning from injury, is expected to start, along with Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Carzola and Tomas Rosicky.
Adebayor will no doubt be desperate to line-up against his old club, but if he is not deemed fit enough to take part one suspects that Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli will spearhead the Spurs attack. The visitors have plenty of midfield options, with the likes of Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue and Moussa Dembele all in contention for a place in the starting XI.
Arsenal v Spurs Betting
Predictably, Arsenal are favourites for this tie, with the 20/21 with Bet Victor the best price available about a home win at the time of writing, while Tottenham can be backed at a standout 31/10 with 888sport.
There is much in the Gunners’ favour. They beat Spurs 1-0 at the Emirates earlier in the season, they are high on confidence, sitting atop of the Premier League, and recent results have been solid. Furthermore, they have been strong defensively, keeping clean sheets in three of their last four matches – they’re 2/1 with Sky Bet to keep another clean sheet this weekend.
However, despite Tim Sherwood’s shaky start as interim manager following Andre Villas-Boas’ departure, things are starting to look up for the Lilywhites. They remain vulnerable at the back, but there was a real fluidity about Spurs against United on Wednesday, and the mood within the camp will be very upbeat following their victory at Old Trafford.
Tottenham invariably have a real go at Arsenal from the moment the first whistle is blown when they visit the Emirates, playing at a high tempo and not affording the Gunners the opportunity to settle into a rhythm. They are likely to do just that again on Saturday and, with that in mind, the 31/20 offered by Ladbrokes about Spurs in the team to score first betting is worth considering.