Perhaps the most fun thing about early FA Cup rounds for us fans is watching our club go to a stadium we’ve never seen before and play a team we won’t encounter in any other competition. Tomorrow, Arsenal will start their cup defense doing exactly that as they travel to the City Ground to play Nottingham Forest.
The Gunners have actually seen the City Ground fairly recently—they played there in 2016 in the league cup and beat Forest 4-0, with Granit Xhaka scoring one of his 30-yard rocket goals. Arsenal haven’t been back since, though, and unless the two sides play a match in next year’s FA Cup, they probably won’t see Forest again for a while.
Like Arsenal, Forest join the FA Cup for the third round, so all of their recent matches have been in the Championship, and they haven’t had the easiest of times. They sit 14th in the table, they have handed the reins to caretaker manager Gary Brazil for the beginning of 2018, two of their last five matches ended in a draw and the other three were losses, and they haven’t scored a goal since they played Preston North End on December 23rd of last year. They are very much looking forward to their game against Arsenal, however, with goalkeeper Jordan Smith calling it “a welcome distraction” from their league campaign.
After playing three games in the past week (and with a rather large portion of starters injured), Arsenal will do a fair bit of rotating tomorrow. We can expect to see a handful of younger players such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson, and with Arsene Wenger planning to rest Xhaka, Maitland-Niles may play in his preferred midfield position, with Josh DaSilva at left back (another option in midfield is Mohamed Elneny). Petr Cech will probably get a break, with David Ospina in goal in his place, and Europa League regulars Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy, and Theo Walcott may also start tomorrow. Wenger will also want to rotate his centerbacks—Laurent Koscielny and center-left-back combination Nacho Monreal are both injured and the rest need to stay healthy, so we may see Per Mertesacker in place of one of Skhodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, and Rob Holding, who have been starting Premier League games as of late.
With a win tomorrow, Arsenal and Wenger will be well on their way to a record 14th and eighth FA Cup, respectively, and with two more potential rounds before the quarterfinals, they may meet a few more unfamiliar teams before the competition is over.
WHAT: Nottingham Forest vs. Arsenal, FA Cup 3rd round
WHERE: The City Ground, Nottingham, England
WHEN: Sunday, January 7th, 8:00 AM PST | 11:00 AM EST | 4:00 PM GMT
US TV: Fox Sports 1
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