Managerless Nottingham Forest welcome Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal Trentside for this afternoons FA Cup 3rd Round Clash.
Forest`s Caretaker Manager, Gary Brazil, was on Press Conference Duty as the Reds still search for a new manager:
‘ I don’t think there is ever a bad time to play Arsenal in the FA Cup, especially at home with a big crowd, and from a player’s perspective, I would really be wanting the shirt – against the Cup holders.
It`s mouth-watering game for the fans and we need to make sure we put in a good performance for them, so that they go away proud of what we have done. If you aren`t looking forward to this game, and it doesn’t give you butterflies in the stomach, then you are in the wrong business.
We have to make sure we have a game plan, but also acknowledge the opposition, exactly as we did for Leeds. We are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and areas where you can hurt them, but also areas where you can get hurt – hopefully, we negate one and take advantage of the other.’
Nottingham Forest Team News:
The position with Forest`s injury list is hard to gauge, but Daryl Murphy is regarded as a doubt, after limping off in home defeat against Sunderland last weekend.
Danny Fox was on the bench against Leeds after recovering from a broken knee cap, but it`s unlikely that Matt Mills, Tendayi Darikwa, Jack Hobbs or Chris Cohen will be involved.
Liam Bridcutt walks the suspension tightrope with 9 bookings, so David Vaughan could start if it`s felt that Bridcutt is more important against Villa.
With limited resources and injuries, Brazil will have limited options but if adding experience is required, could that see Jamie Ward or Apostolis Vellios involved in a matchday squad?
Player to watch: Jordan Smith
Forest`s defence will almost certainly face a very stern test against Arsenal`s pacy and powerful attackers and however unlikely it may be, if the 23 year old academy graduate can keep a clean sheet (as he did at Leeds) – that would be a day to remember for the South Normanton born youngster!
Arsenal Team News:
Arsene Wenger faces a 3 game touchline ban, so he will have to watch the game from the stands alongside the injured playing contingent that includes; Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Santi Cazorla, Sead Kolasinac and Oliveir Giroud.
Due to the congested fixture list, he has stated that he will rotate his squad and it`s likely that Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette will all be rested – but Per Mertesacke, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are all likely to start.
Player to watch: Theo Walcott
The 28 year old forward joined Arsenal from Southampton for £5m in January 2006 but his 12 year stay with the Gunners could be soon up, with rumours that he will be allowed to leave this summer – possibly returning to The Saints.
Theo has 4 goals in 14 appearances this season (108 goals in 395 career appearances for Arsenal) and will no doubt be keen to impress potential suitors this afternoon.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsene`s men have gone 9 games unbeaten in all competitions, their last defeat was against Man Utd at the Emirates on 2nd December. The Gunners are 6th in the Premier League (w11, d6, l5) but they are 23 points behind the leaders and will therefore want ‘Cup` success, be that of FA, League or Europa variety.
In stark contrast, Forest have just 1 win in their last 8 games, at home on 9th December against Bolton – a run which was enough for Warburton`s head to roll.
The Reds sit 14th in the Championship (w10, d2, l14) and whilst they earned a creditable 0-0 against Leeds in Gary Brazil`s first game as Caretaker Manager (his 3rd stint at Forest already), defending has proven a real issue with 42 goals conceded in 26 league games.
Forest have won just once in 14 attempts against Arsenal and suffered a comfortable 0-4 defeat at home in last season`s League Cup tie.
Arsene Wenger has never suffered a defeat in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Jonathan Moss has been appointed as this afternoon`s Referee, in front of BT Sport`s TV cameras – which will be his 19th game in charge this season, the previous 18 have seen 63 yellow and 2 red cards. Last season officiated 37 games, with a return of 141 yellows and 3 red cards.
Mr Moss will be assisted by Sian Massey-Ellis and Edward Smart, with Kevin Friend as the Fourth Official.
Arguably, there is no pressure on Nottingham Forest given that they are without a manager, in a woeful run of form, they have not scored a goal in their last 3 games and they do not have the resources that Wenger can use to rotate his squad.
It`s therefore no surprise that the Bookies have the FA Cup holders as odds on favourites to progress to the next round and whilst fairly tales can happen – they haven`t Trentside since Brian Clough was in charge, sadly, a comfortable away win seems likely – but we can always dream of an upset.
Forest welcome Steve Bruce`s Aston Villa to the City Ground on Saturday, 13th January, KO 5-30pm.