Sunderland will host Arsenal in an FA Cup fifth-round showdown on Feb. 18. It’s the only all-Premier League cup game in the round. The two teams met last Saturday, also at the Stadium of Light, with Thierry Henry scoring a last-minute winner for Arsenal in a 2-1 game. Manager Arsene Wenger won’t have Henry to call on this time for his late heroics as his loan move is over and he’s headed back to America to begin training for the new MLS season with the New York Red Bulls. Arsenal played in Italy on Wednesday and was blown out of the water 4-0 by AC Milan in a Champions League match.
This is an important game for Arsenal if they hope to salvage anything out of a poor season. As they found out last week though, Sunderland’s no pushover anymore since Steve Bruce was finally sacked as manager and Martin O’Neill took over the reins back on Dec. 3.
Sunderland’s only lost twice in their past dozen games and will be out for revenge for last week’s league loss. They should have also gained some confidence from that match.
Sunderland’s in ninth place in the league now with nine wins, six draws and 10 losses for 33 points. Arsenal sits in fourth spot with 13 wins, four draws and eight losses. They have 43 points, but are 17 behind league-leading Manchester City. They’re level with Chelsea on points and just one ahead of Newcastle.
The pitch at the Stadium of Light has come into question recently as most Sunderland players said it was in brutal condition and has been for the past few weeks. However, both teams have to play on it so it’s something they’ll just have to deal with.
Arsenal will have to do without defender Per Mertesacker who was injured in last week’s game at Sunderland and is now out for the season following ankle-ligament surgery. Laurent Koscielny will likely miss the game too due to a knee injury suffered in Milan. Gervinho is back in the squad after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, but defender Carl Jenkinson is still suffering with a bad back and Jack Wilshere is likely out for the season too.
Sunderland is hoping that midfielder Lee Cattermole will be back in the squad after being sidelined with an injured hamstring. Striker Nicklas Bendtner has returned to training as well, but since he’s on loan at Sunderland from Arsenal he’s not eligible to play in the game anyway. In addition, Sunderland looks like they’ll be will be missing David Vaughan, Wes Brown, and Titus Bramble, who are all injured.
Sunderland v Arsenal Predictions
Arsenal has a bad habit of choking in big games, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them lose this one by a goal. Sportsbook William Hill has the latest odds of a Sunderland win listed at 9/5 with an Arsenal victory at 13/8 and a draw at 21/10.