Saturday will see the Emirates be the venue for the clash between 2nd placed Arsenal with the 17th placed Middlesbrough. Arsene Wenger will face Aitor Karanka in a match which will be the battle of two contrasting philosophies. While at the moment Arsenal are the most in form team in the league, scoring beautiful goals aplenty, Boro in their last few fixtures struggled to make any sort of impact in the forward areas. It certainly seems to be very tough at the moment for the visitors to contain the home side and arrest their own slide on Saturday but the unpredictability of the Premier league will be keeping the hosts on their toes, very careful not to allow any kind of slip-ups.
The Gunners will be without Granit Xhaka who is on a three match suspension after his red card last week. Xhaka’s absence would mean Coquelin will feature once again in the middle. There is also some doubt over the availability of Santi Cazorla who had a niggle in his achilles while playing in the midweek Champions League game and was substituted early in the second half. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey will have to wait a further 7 days to be fully fit while Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Chuba Akpom continue to be out of the squad with their injuries.
Middlesbrough have a pretty fit squad barring the likes of their skipper Grant Leadbitter, who will be available shortly after his hernia surgery and James Husband who is suffering from a shoulder injury. Karanka won’t also be able to call upon Calum Chambers who can’t appear against his parent team according to the terms of his loan.
Possible Line Ups
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Walcott, Ozil , Iwobi; Alexis
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Valdes; Barragan, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Foreshaw; Stuani, Ramirez, Downing; Negredo
In form Theo Walcott would be the key once again for the Gunners as the pacey winger would look to unsettle the defensive shape once more with his attacking runs and unpredictable movement. Boro have conceded in each of their last five games and it is something Walcott would look to exploit in order to keep up his fine goalscoring form.
For Middlesbrough, defender Daniel Ayala would be key as he will need to be at the top of his game to contain the likes of Alexis Sanchez and the runs of Mezut Ozil, who scored a hattrick in midweek. Having to organize his defensive line and make sure they do not afford space in behind, Ayala will have to deliver a stellar performance if the visitors are to have any chances of getting something out of the game.
The Gunners are hot favourites to win the tie at 27/100, Middlesbrough are given a chance of 23/2 for their win. A draw is rated at 27/5 by the bookmakers.