Arsenal travel to League Two high flyers Bradford City this evening with manager Arsene Wenger promising to field a strong team.
A win tonight puts Arsenal two games away from Wembley, but buoyed by a rambunctuous home crowd, the Bantams will represent a stiff test for the Gunners.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is keen to avoid the spectre of penalties in hostile territory this evening, ‘We have to win the game in normal time. They have gained confidence in these types of competitions and confidence plays a big part in that. Hopefully we won’t need penalties,’ Wenger said.
‘Bradford are a force in their league, they are a team who play very good football and very efficient as well. We take them very seriously. They are very efficient at set pieces, so we will have to be very strong on that.’
‘Valley Parade was a difficult place to go to when we played there in the Premier League,’ he said. ‘It is a passionate place with a very special atmosphere as well. That’s what you will get again in this match.
‘I believe when you go to places like this, you need to tell your players that it will be as difficult as a Premier League game, and it will be.
‘Therefore you want to prepare yourself. If you don’t do your mental work before the game, you have no chance and that is where our job lies.’
Bradford boss Phil Parkinson, who was last year offered a position as a scout for Arsenal, wants home advantage to tell for his side, ”It’ll be a great occasion to have a full house and we have to make sure we have a performance full of commitment and desire.’
Parkinson added: ‘We’ll make sure that everyone knows their jobs and responsibilities. The personnel might be different to normal but we know what system they’ll be playing.
‘We’ve got the utmost respect for them as a club and we know it’ll be a difficult game, but it’s one we have to enjoy.’
Bradford City Team News:
Phil Parkinson has no new injuries from the weekend match with Torquay United. Tom Naylor and Craig Forsyth are both cup tied.
Zavon Hines (ankle) and Kyel Reid (groin) are still not fit.
Bradford City (from): Duke, McLaughlin, Darby, Davies, McHugh, Oliver, McArdle, Good, Meredith, R.Jones, G.Jones, Atkinson, Doyle, Brown Thompson, Hanson, Connell, Baker.
Player to watch: Alan Connell
The Bantams striker is a huge Arsenal fan, who has already attended two Arsenal home games this season when off of Bantams duty. In fact, he was in the crowd when the Gunners bagged their last trophy in Cardiff in 2005.
You know domestic cups have a tendency to embrace these potentially romantic storylines, don’t you?
Arsenal Team News:
Olivier Giroud misses out with a back complaint, whilst Laurent Koscielny (groin), Andre Santos (stomach) and Theo Walcott (ankle) all miss out.
Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) is a long term injury, but Vito Mannone returns to the squad. Abou Diaby (thigh), Bacary Sagna (foot) and Johan Djourou (groin) won’t travel.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone, Jenkinson, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Angha, Gibbs, Meade, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Eisfeld, S.Cazorla, Rosicky, Chamberlain, Arshavin, Gervinho, Podolski, Akpom, Chamakh.
Player to watch: Tomas Rosicky
It seems likely the Czech playmaker will start and it’s no wonder that our attacking play completely disintegrated when he came off in Athens last week.
Rosicky’s drive and subtlety will be needed to overcome a busy Bantams midfield.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal have visited Bradford twice in Arsene Wenger’s reign and haven’t won either time. A 2-1 defeat in February 2000 was followed up with a 1-1 draw in September 2000.
Ashley Cole registered his first goal as a professional in this fixture twelve years ago.
The sides have met 25 times, with Arsenal winning 11, Bradford 9 and 5 draws.
The referee will be Mike Dean. Bugger.
Away cup fixtures are never easy and this one especially won’t be at this stage of the competition. It’ll be cold, a little fesity and with an intense atmosphere.
The first 15 minutes are key and if we keep them out in the early stages we should be able to impose our style on them. I’m reasonably confident we win and I’m backing a 3-1 win for Arsenal. Chamberlain, Rosicky and Eisfeld with the goals.
Arsenal play away at Reading next Monday night. Bradford are away at Southend United on Saturday.