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Arsenal vs. Cardiff City preview: bounce back

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Three points is a must.

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
With a number of injuries in defense, Arsenal will need the attack to carry the team for a while.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Tuesday’s pre-match ceremony will be a tough one. Cardiff City’s trip to the Emirates is the first match the team will play since the plane carrying transfer Emiliano Sala went missing. The pilot, David Ibbotson, is also missing.

The Cardiff players and supporters will be wearing daffodils in their honor, captains from both teams will lay wreaths, and Cardiff chief executive Ken Choo has invited Sala’s family to the match. Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock said that team selection might be difficult, that he expects some of the players to understandably not be in the right mindset to play a match.

The thoughts, prayers, and hearts of all of us here at TSF go out to Emiliano’s and David’s families, Cardiff City Football Club, and the larger CCFC community during this difficult time.

It feels strange to talk about something as comparatively mundane as a football match in the same breath as the disappearance of a plane and the likely loss of life, but just as the match will go on, so must we.

Remember when the Arsenal defensive crisis looked to be getting better — Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, and Hector Bellerin were all fit at the same time, Dinos Mavropanos was back in training, and the club seemed to be through the worst of it? That was fun.

The Gunners are in as dire of a defensive crisis as I can ever remember them being after Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis picked up injuries in Friday’s FA Cup loss to Manchester United. Koscielny is day-to-day with a bruised jaw and is expected to miss the Cardiff match. Sokratis will be out for a month with an ankle injury. Arsenal are down to two healthy centerbacks - Shkodran Mustafi and Dinos Mavropanos. Mavropanos, by the way, has yet to make a senior team appearance this season.

Fortunately for Arsenal, Tuesday’s match is at the Emirates, where they are unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League matches (9W, 2D). Even with the defensive issues, the Gunners should be able to ride their attack to three points. Cardiff has the second-worst defense in the Premier League by goals conceded, and the Bluebirds are in the midst of a poor run of form. They have managed only one goal in their past five Premier League matches.

That said, when these two teams met in September, Cardiff came back from down a goal twice, and Arsenal needed an 81st minute goal from Alexandre Lacazette to secure the points. I don’t expect Tuesday’s match to be nearly as close. Arsenal should score at least three, and I don’t see Cardiff managing more than one.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Cardiff City

WHERE: The Emirates

WHEN: Tuesday, January 29th, 11:45 AM PT | 2:45 PM ET | 7:45 PM BT

US TV: Streaming on NBC Sports Gold ($).

For all your international streaming needs, check out livesoccer.tv. As always, please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.