Spurred by their three victories in a bounce in the Premier League, Arsenal will start the defence of the FA Cup as they welcome Newcastle United to the Etihad Stadium in what no doubt is the headline fixture of the weekend. The Gunners would be boosted by the return to training of Thomas Partey after weeks of inaction due to injury, and Manager Mikel Arteta has said the midfielder could be in action against the Magpies
Arsenal will be looking to book their spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup when they welcome fellow Premier League side Newcastle United to the Emirates Stadium this evening.
The Gunners will enter the match off the back of three straight Premier League victories, but Newcastle are winless in their last six matches in all competitions during a disappointing run.
There was serious pressure on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta when Manchester City recorded a 4-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup on December 22.
However, it has been a strong couple of weeks for the capital outfit, who have beaten Chelsea, Brighton & Hove Albion and West Bromwich Albion in their last three league fixtures to rise into 11th position in the table.
Arteta’s side actually now have three games in a row on home soil, welcoming Crystal Palace and Newcastle in their next two league matches before travelling to Southampton on January 26.
Arsenal are the holders of the FA Cup, beating Chelsea in last season’s final to lift the trophy for the 14th time, making them the most successful side in the history of the competition.
The Gunners have recorded four straight wins over Newcastle in the league, but this weekend’s clash will be the first time that the two teams have met in the FA Cup since January 2008, when the London club recorded a 3-0 victory to advance to the fifth round of the competition.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are six-time winners of the FA Cup but have not won the trophy since 1955; the Magpies reached the quarter-finals of last season’s competition, though, before losing to Man City.
Clubs across England are expected to make wholesale changes to their usual starting XIs in the third round of the FA Cup, and it would not be a surprise to see Steve Bruce take similar action as his team are currently on a poor run of form in England’s top flight.
Newcastle picked up a point at home to Liverpool at the end of December but will enter this match off the back of a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City, while they have not won in the league since December 12.
A total of 19 points from 16 matches has left the Magpies in 15th spot in the table, and there is little doubting that next week’s clash with Sheffield United in the league is more important than this FA Cup third-round contest against the holders.
Meanwhile, Premier League high-fliers Leicester City begin their FA Cup campaign with an away match against Stoke City this afternoon.
The Foxes make the trip to the bet365 Stadium sitting third in the top flight, while opponents Stoke are eighth in the Championship.
Leicester are unbeaten in four league matches and enter this game on the back of a 2-1 win at Newcastle United last weekend.
That victory, combined with Liverpool’s shock loss to Southampton, leaves Brendan Rodgers’s side just a point off top spot.
Having narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot last season – the consolation prize being a place in the Europa League – Leicester City are well in the mix for a top-four finish again this term.
Indeed, with a Europa League last-32 tie with Slavia Prague to come next month, the Foxes are still competing for silverware on three fronts in the second half of 2020-21.
The FA Cup will be considered another realistic opportunity to win some silverware, though this is a competition Leicester have never previously won, reaching the final on four previous occasions without lifting the famous cup.
Stoke, likewise, have never previously gone all the way, reaching the final just once before in 2010-11, going down 1-0 to Manchester City at Wembley.
Winning the FA Cup this season is not the Potters’ main target, but rather earning promotion from the Championship.
Michael O’Neill’s side are winless in three league matches, but they remain just two points adrift of the playoff spots with a sizeable chunk of the campaign still to go.
Stoke, who were eliminated from the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage by Tottenham Hotspur last month, have a poor record in the FA Cup, losing each of their last four third-round ties.
Leicester, meanwhile, have progressed from all five of their FA Cup ties against Championship opposition since they won promotion to the Premier League in 2014.