Arsenal - Stoke City Preview: Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny ruled through injury out as Arsene Wenger rings the changes
By Oliver Yew
Arsene Wenger will ring the changes once again and recall many of the senior players who missed out on the FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road.
But he will be unable to call upon Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny, who have both been ruled out with hamstring and back problems respectively, although the pair are expected to be fit to return for the League Cup final on Sunday.
Johan Djourou could return to the squad after missing the last match with a back problem.
Abou Diaby is still out injured with a calf injury and he also serves the final game of his three-match suspension.
Defender Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles) and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (shoulder) are still sidelined.
Possible starting XI: Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Clichy; Fabregas, Song, Wilshere; Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.
Tony Pulis will be without winger Matthew Etherington, who picked up a knock to his back in the FA Cup win over Brighton.
Pulis will also have to decide between goalkeepers Thomas Sorensen and Asmir Begovic for the trip to north London.
Sorensen started the game against Brighton but Begovic is likely to reclaim the starting spot at the Emirates stadium.Mamady Sidibe (Achilles) is still out of action and will not be available for the remainder of the season.
Possible starting XI: Begovic; Huth, Wilson, Shawcross, Pugh; Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Walters; Jones, Carew.
Time to focus on the league
It must be difficult sometimes for Arsenal's players to remember what competition they are playing in next.
They are in the middle of a run which has and will see them play four consecutive games in four different competitions.
The phrase 'take each game as it comes' might be an old cliche but it is vitally important for Arsenal as they turn their attention to the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger's side have a vital opportunity to close the gap on Manchester United to one point - albeit by playing a game extra.
With it being over a week until Arsenal's next league game because of cup commitments, it is vital they are fully focused and pick up all three points, otherwise by the time Sunderland visit north London on March 5 the league could have slipped away from them.
A case for discipline
Stoke have been looking forward to this fixture with the Gunners ever since Arsene Wenger accused Tony Pulis' side of playing 'rugby' on a football pitch.
The comments infuriated everyone associated with Stoke and they will not need anymore firing up before stepping onto the field.
It might be worth Pulis pointing out to his Arsenal counterpart that maybe he should look a bit closer to home when complaining about rough house tactics.
The north London side are no saints themselves and have a worse disciplinary record this season than Stoke.
Wenger's team have picked up 44 yellow and six red cards in Premier League matches so far while Stoke have 46 yellows and two red cards to their name.
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Top 3 Predictions
Arsenal FC 3-0 Stoke City
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Arsenal FC 3-1 Stoke City
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Arsenal FC 2-0 Stoke City
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