Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will give starts to Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku in Manchester United’s FA Cup third-round clash with Reading.
Solskjaer confirmed he will make a number of changes, although his defensive options are limited by injuries to Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo while Eric Bailly is suspended.
Paul Pogba may well have been rested anyway but is a doubt following the challenge from Jonjo Shelvey on Wednesday. The likes of Sergio Romero, Marouane Fellaini, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Matteo Darmian, Scott McTominay, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could all come into contention.
Provisional squad: De Gea, Romero, Grant, Dalot, Darmian, Valencia, Shaw, Young, Jones, Lindelof, Fred, Gomes, Matic, Pereira, Herrera, McTominay, Pogba, Lingard, Fellaini, Mata, Rashford, Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez, Chong.
Unai Emery insists his Arsenal side will show respect to Blackpool as he looks to avoid a “dark day” when he takes charge of his first FA Cup tie on Saturday.
The Spaniard replaced Arsene Wenger – the most successful manager in the history of the FA Cup with seven wins – last summer and is set for his first taste of the competition at Bloomfield Road this weekend.
Blackpool sit 10th in Sky Bet League One with off-the-field matters still dominating the goings on for the Tangerines.
The average attendance for Blackpool home games this season stands at just over 4,000 as supporters continue to protest over the Oyston family’s ownership of the club.
But, after seeing off Terry McPhillips’ side 2-1 in a tight Carabao Cup meeting earlier in the season, Emery wants to make sure he does not endure a similar afternoon as he did when his Sevilla side were embarrassed by third-tier Racing Santander in a 2013 Copa del Rey tie.
“In my experience I also have one dark day in some competitions and I don’t like it,” Emery said when asked if he was aware of the term “giant-killing”.
“For example we lost with Sevilla against one team in the third division in Spain in one cup. I remember that.
“The most important one was the match against Racing Santander four years ago – and also I remember another team. I remember each match when it is arriving in the cup, another surprise (could happen) in this competition.
“I am going to remember that. For example two years ago, Arsenal won this title against Chelsea. But last year they lost against Nottingham Forest.
“I think we can win, we can lose, we can draw but we must be concerned. It is important also to prepare and respect every team, and then we can continue our way of improving and above all have a competitive mentality and a winning mentality.”
While Blackpool’s fans largely remain at loggerheads with the club’s owners, Emery wants to show the former Premier League side respect in their meeting as he looks to uphold Arsenal’s tradition of being the most successful FA Cup side of all time.
“When we played here against them in the Carabao Cup, we knew this history of this club,” he said.
“They aren’t in the best moment for that. But here against us at the Emirates they played very competitively and gave us a lot of difficult moments.
“I have a big respect for each team and I know they are one team now not in the best moment but the respect is there because it’s a very big opportunity for them to play against us with their supporters and live this important moment, finding the chances against us.
“In the history (of the FA Cup), it’s been very important for us. Arsenal is the team that has won this competition 13 times, more than anyone else.
“It’s a title and it’s a possibility for us to do something important. We are going to start that at Blackpool. We know them because we played against them and we have the respect.”
La Liga returns this weekend after a winter break that lasted an eternity. The third round of the FA Cup is also scheduled to be played this weekend, allowing the players very little rest after the mid-week league games.
We pick the best clash from each of the competitions and build you up to the games that will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
Fixture: Chelsea v Nottingham forest
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: 5th January, Saturday
Time: 19:00 GST
Injury-hit Chelsea host Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup in a fixture that could possibly be Cesc Fabregas’ last assignment with the Blues. The Spanish midfielder has won two Premier League titles, a League Cup and an FA Cup during his time at the London-based club and is tipped to join Monaco very soon. He could be crucial in this fixture too, with injuries to the likes of Andreas Christensen, Pedro and Oliver Giroud all testing Chelsea’s depth.
Forest will be confident after defeating Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, who are currently on top of the Championship table. Chelsea thumped Forest 5-1 when the clubs met in the League Cup last season. Will we see a twist in the tale or more of the same?
Fixture: Sevilla v Atletico Madrid
Venue: Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Date: 6th January, Sunday
Time: 19:15 GST
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will be travelling to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday to take on Pablo Machin’s Sevilla in a battle for second spot. The fact that Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are on eight and 14-game undefeated streaks respectively makes this fixture all the more intriguing.
Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder will be looking to lead the hosts to a win that could prove decisive in the battle behind Barcelona. Antoine Griezmann has been the lone ranger for Los Colchoneros and the fact that Diego Costa will be missing the tie due to injury places a further burden on the Frenchman.