Arsenal host Manchester City in their Carabao Cup quarter-final on Tuesday.
Talk of this being a fixture of importance is not unfounded, although the basis for that may vary. Of course, Arsenal are just three matches away from a trophy, but as glorious as lifting silverware is, the reality is that there are bigger fish to fry.
Sealing progression to the last four will please supporters and club alike more as a means of building momentum rather than edging closer to a trophy that’s evaded the Gunners since 1993. Add to that qualification to UEFA Europa Conference League and it’s perhaps even less enticing.
But it’s a competition that Arsenal have performed well in this season. A deserved 2-0 win over Leicester in the third round had become forgotten amid the other notable failings, with even the penalty shootout victory over Liverpool not allowed to be enjoyed for too long.
Manchester City are a significantly better footballing side than Arsenal, and this is has become their competition of late. Even if they decide to rest a few first team regulars, their second-string is stronger than anything Arsenal can produce.
While a win needs to come from anywhere, the reduced pressure of facing a top side nobody expects them to beat may open the door for a freer approach. Or, consequently, with Mikel Arteta fearing the possibility of a hammering on home soil to his former employers, he’ll field the ‘strong’ team that has continuously appeared otherwise weak.
How does he prepare for this one, then? It’ll be an interesting lineup, for sure.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Bernd Leno (GK) – He’d love to play Runar Alex Runarsson for this one, were it not for the unfortunate fact that he looks pretty rubbish. If you want to stand any chance of an upset against City, you need the goalkeeper in net who is best at stopping shots. Simple, really.
RobH olding (CB) – Featuring in every minute of the previous four Premier League outings, Arteta may be fearful of throwing Calum Chambers in for this one as his first taste of senior domestic football following injury. City are (slightly) stronger than Dundalk.
Gabriel Magalhaes (CB) – You get the feeling that Arteta will lean more towards his Premier League regulars in a bid to build momentum into what will likely be a similar side for the visit of Chelsea on Saturday. With Gabriel having had a day off against Everton, he should come back in.
Kieran Tierney (CB) – It would be great to see Kieran Tierney rested for such fixtures but Sead Kolasinac is nowhere near good enough to contend with Riyad Mahrez and Pablo Mari could well be eased into top-level football following his lay-off.