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Arsenal vs. Oxford United: spoiling the magic

The FA Cup is wonderful. Here’s hoping tonight is boring.

Oxford United v Arsenal: Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Arsenal travel to Kassam Stadium for an FA Cup 3rd Round match against Oxford United. The U’s are 15th in League One, the third tier of English football. They’re 50-some odd places behind the Gunners, so that FA Cup magic will be looking to do its thing. What could be better than a struggling club knocking off the top dog in the Premier League, the club that has won the most FA Cups of any club in history?

Here’s hoping the Gunners don’t suffer the same fate as Newcastle did over the weekend. I think they’ll avoid it, primarily because I suspect Mikel Arteta will deploy a stronger lineup than some are hoping to see. Arsenal have had and will have plenty of time off between matches, so even if players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli don’t start, they’ll probably get around a 30-minute runout to keep them sharp. Ultimately, I think their talent will prove too much for the hosts.

And it’s not as if the players expected to start are slouches. Emile Smith Rowe is set to make his return to the Arsenal lineup after missing several months recovering from groin surgery. Fabio Vieira will likely start in the middle alongside him. Marquinhos will be on the other wing, with Eddie Nketiah leading the line. That’s a good bit of attacking talent. It’s not Man. City bringing £100M Jack Grealish off the bench, but it should do for today’s contest.

Or not. I guess my prediction was wrong. Mikel Arteta has selected his first-choice attacking three, swapping in Vieira for Martin Ødegaard.

The Gunners will be without Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson through injury. Cedric may not feature because he’s been linked with a January move away to Fulham. Arsenal will be wearing their “No More Red” kits to raise awareness and help combat violent youth crime.

Manchester City will host the winner of tonight’s match at the Etihad in the 4th Round.

Arsenal - Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Elneny, Lokonga, Vieira, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah

Oxford United - McGinty, Anderson, Moore,Long, Brown, McGuane, Bate, Brannagan, Bodin, Taylor, Murphy

WHAT: Arsenal at Oxford United, FA Cup 3rd Round
WHERE: Kassam Stadium, Oxford
WHEN: Monday, January 9th 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET | 8 pm BT
US TV: Streaming on ESPN+.

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