The FA Cup returns to Wembley this weekend for two semi-finals, the first of which sees defending champions Manchester City take on Arsenal on Saturday.
City have had a good week, overturning their European ban on Monday to ensure Champions League football for next season before beating an improving Bournemouth side on Wednesday evening.
Arsenal have had a very ‘Arsenal’ few days, stumbling to defeat in the north London derby on Sunday before Wednesday’s impressive win over Premier League champions Liverpool with Alexandre Lacazette back among the goals. The FA Cup represents their final chance for silverware this season.
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 18 July
What Time Is Kick Off? 19:45 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Wembley Stadium
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK), FuboTV (US)
Referee? Jonathan Moss
Arsenal remain without Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Martinelli and Pablo Mari, all of whom are out for the remainder of this season.
Eddie Nketiah is suspended after his red card against Leicester and Mesut Ozil continues to be left out of matchday squads with an apparent back problem, although the problems surely lie deeper than merely fitness there.
City will only be without Sergio Aguero this Saturday, though he is clearly a big miss as the fourth-highest scorer in the competition’s history. Aside from his absence, it’s hard to predict Pep Guardiola’s final XI owing to his constant tinkering since the restart.
However, those who sat out most of the Bournemouth win – notably Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Aymeric Laporte – should all return.
Arsenal: Martinez; Holding, Luiz, Kolasinac; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Tierney; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Garcia, Laporte, Mendy; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.
Arsenal have shown plenty of character since the restart, with some excellent results against Wolves and Liverpool. However, their mix of youth and experience has provided frustration for Mikel Arteta, with defensive lapses and a lack of clinical finishing costing them on occasion.
The switch to a back five has aided the side tremendously, and the improving form of both Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe – while perhaps coming too late to salvage any European ambitions – has at least given Gunners fans hope that they can match City this Saturday.
City have had a strong return to action, losing just twice in their nine games since the resumption. Thumping wins over Newcastle and Brighton followed by the outclassing of Bournemouth in recent encounters have been scarily ruthless. While defensive issues remain, City fans must be a tad frustrated that their side couldn’t demonstrate this kind of form earlier in the season.
The slightly controversial changing of the substitute rules to five changes has perhaps benefited City more than any other club with their large versatile squad. Guardiola has rotated virtually every position in recent matches to ensure his charges are kept fresh for this knockout match and their quest for a first Champions League title, which gets back underway in early August.
The last time the sides met was in their first match back after the restart, where that David Luiz nightmare gifted City an easy 3-0 win. Arsenal have lost their last seven games against City, with their last win coming in a 2017 FA Cup semi final.
Here’s both sides’ recent form in all competitions.
Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (15/7)
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (12/7)
Arsenal 1-1 Leicester (7/7)
Wolves 0-2 Arsenal (4/7)
Arsenal 4-0 Norwich (1/7)
Manchester City 2-1 Bournemouth (15/7)
Brighton 0-5 Manchester City (11/7)
Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle (8/7)
Southampton 1-0 Manchester City (5/7)
Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool (2/7)
Both sides have defensive frailties and the result here will largely depend on which side defends better on the day. Going forward, both sides have plenty of flair and pace but City’s incredible strength in depth is unmatched and Arsenal will do extremely well to keep their attacking weaponry at bay.
There will almost certainly be drama and both sides should get on the scoresheet, but ultimately City should have enough to get past the Gunners and secure the chance to defend their crown on August 1.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-3 Manchester City