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Match Preview: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough (FA Cup, Fifth Round Proper)

If Arsenal wins, they're just one win from Wembley. If they don't win, an ongoing narrative continues.

Look who's back on Sunday!
Look who's back on Sunday!
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough
FA Cup, Fifth Round Proper
Sunday, February 15, 2015
8 am PT/11 am ET/4 pm BT
Emirates Stadium, London
US TV: Fox Sports 2 (The Fox Sports Channel that cares) | UK TV: BT Sport
Worldwide TV info at

What's at stake: A trip to the FA Cup Quarterfinals, or, should the defending FA Cup holders draw with the current Championship table toppers, a return tie in North Yorkshire.

When last they Cupped: Middlesbrough was, of course, part of the Day of Delicious Upsets on Jan. 24, taking out Manchester City 2-0 (with a 53rd-minute high-excitement goal and a stoppage-time insurance goal) on a day in which Chelsea, Spurs, and Southampton also waved goodbye to a potential Double. The next day, Arsenal visited Giant Credit Card Stadium and held off a spunky Brighton & Hove Albion, 3-2.

Why Middlesbrough shouldn't be laughed off: Well, obviously, they're doing well in what very well might be functioning as their 2015-16 Premier League preview tour. Not only have they beaten City at the Etihad, but also took Liverpool to an insane 31 penalty kicks before bowing out of the Capital One Cup in September at Anfield, by a score of 2-2 (14-13). The awesomely-English-named Grant Leadbitter leads all Smoggie goalscorers with 12 goals this campaign, with Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford not far behind with 11 (including the initial goal in the City match). Certainly, Boro would like to be christened as the Giant-Killers We All Remember in an FA Cup with plenty of candidates.

Arsene Wenger had nice things to say about them in his press conference earlier today, namely, "They suffered in the first half [against Manchester City] but they won the second half in a convincing way. They are well organised, play good football with good pace and they are very creative."

What's new with Arsenal: According to Le Boss in today's presser, Gabriel Paulista is "very close" to making his debut, so maybe keep an eye out for #5 on Sunday, and Wojciech Szczesny will resume his role as Cup keeper with a start for the first time in three weeks. As we reported earlier in the week, Aaron Ramsey's out for up to a month after his nine minutes against Leicester over the weekend; Wenger's also hinting that Alexis will be rested for Sunday, and though Jack Wilshere's ready to go, he's been out of commission for two months, so there's some hints that any Wilsherage will come from the bench. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the closest of the three more injured folks to be making a return, with Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy still a ways off.