Arsenal will welcome League One Sunderland to the Emirates on Tuesday evening, with a place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup the prize on offer. The hosts are likely to rotate heavily, especially with the Christmas schedule unaffected at the time of writing. The Black Cats have nothing to lose by going for it from the off, too. Read our preview here:
Mikel Arteta's men are on a hot streak at the moment, and cemented fourth place in the Barclays Premier League at the weekend with another handsome win, that time at the expense of Leeds United. The upturn in form multiplies their possible routes back into European competition next season, so their clash on Tuesday night might not have quite the same level of importance attached to it as it did a few weeks ago. Options up top are limited, especially by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not currently being considered for selection. Another who is likely to be heading for the exit door either in January or the summer is Eddie Nketiah, who has found meaningful starts severely limited. Nevertheless, Arteta will use the game as a shop window for him, supporting the frontline by cutting in from the left; he has two in two in the competition this term, and will be confident of at least maintaining that ratio. Both Pablo Marí and Albert Sambi Lokonga have tested positive for Covid.
Neil's the real deal
The sleeping north-east giants are once again in the third tier promotion mix, and one noticeable slump aside, they look better equipped to finally get themselves out of the division under manager Lee Johnson's auspices. However, they must contend with the absences of at least Aiden McGeady, Luke O'Nien, and Leon Dajaku, with Dennis Cirkin and Corry Evans further doubts. The 3-5-2 shape will have Dan Neil at its very centre; the youngster was recently called up to the England U20s, which is no mean feat for a player outside of the top two divisions. He is a creative force in midfield, offering a different route to attack, and has racked up the assists in League One this term. His form has been rewarded with a contract extension until 2025, and it will be fascinating to see how he responds to the challenge of coming up against top tier opponents.
Sunderland 'til I Cry
The away support will be massive, despite the uncertainty over Covid and likelihood of defeat. What was once a yearly fixture for Sunderland has now been confined to cup runs, and their team won't make it easy for Arsenal. The key absences will hit hard however, and Parimatch have odds of 2.75 for another comfortable home win for the Gunners at a handicap of -2.
Bet Arsenal (-2) on Parimatch