Both Arsenal and Hull City may be forgiven for looking beyond Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie when they meet in the competition for a third-straight season at Emirates Stadium.
Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time strike won the trophy for Arsenal in 2014 at the Tigers’ expense after Steve Bruce’s men had taken a stunning 2-0 lead inside eight minutes.
An immediate Cup rematch saw Arsenal win 2-0 on home soil in last season’s third round as Arsene Wenger’s men went on to successfully defend the Cup.
However, with a genuine chance to win a first Premier League title in 12 years, and the not so insignificant matter of a Champions league last-16 first leg at home to Barcelona just three days after the Cup tie, Wenger is expected to make changes to his side.
Wenger told Arsenal’s official website: “I will, as always, play a team who has a good chance to qualify. The normal squad is involved on Saturday. It is a normal squad and we’ll play a usual strong team.”
Arsenal are confident on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny, scorer of Arsenal’s second goal in the 2014 final, despite the Frenchman limping off against Leicester City last week, and he is likely to play given Gabriel (hamstring) remains unavailable.
Mohamed Elneny is poised to come into the midfield after making his Arsenal debut against Burnley in round four.
Bruce will also shuffle his pack with the Championship leaders looking to secure an immediate return to the top flight.
Manchester United loanee Nick Powell will be given a Hull debut at the Emirates, with high-profile names in Bruce’s squad such as Michael Dawson, Abel Hernandez and Jake Livermore likely to be rested with Tuesday’s tough away trip to Ipswich Town in mind.
“Nick will definitely play,” said Bruce. “To be fair to Nick, he came here with a bit of an injury but he has now trained for 10 days.
“When you look at a game like we had on Tuesday night against Brighton, Nick could be just the type of player we’re looking for and he will have a big part to play in the coming weeks. I’ve told him that. He’s versatile and can play as a striker or as a midfielder and I’m sure he can give us that bit of impetus.
“He’ll definitely play on Saturday, as will all of the ones who haven’t been playing recently.
“Making changes is the only option I’ve got. After Arsenal, we play again on Tuesday and then Friday so I have to make sure we’re fresh enough to compete in those games as well.”
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