By Matt Farr
Arsene Wenger could make seven changes to his Arsenal starting eleven to face English minnows Lincoln in the FA Cup sixth round on Saturday.
Regular first-team members Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud are all expected to make way following the 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Kieran Gibbs, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Lucas Perez are all expected to feature in their place.
The FA Cup tie presents Wenger with an opportunity to allow some of his fringe players to get some valuable game-time ahead of the end of season run-in, but he will be wary of being caught out for fielding a weak side despite being likely to leave out attacker duo Sanchez and Giroud.
Therefore, as many as four regular faces are expected to retain their places in the side, including Theo Walcott, David Ospina, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey.
Wenger is also likely to name a strong bench, a tactic deployed against Sutton in the previous round, to ensure that no upset is on the cards. That bench is likely to include star duo Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
Ospina has been Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper in cup competitions this season, and will be expected to retain his role on Saturday, despite his involvement in the midweek defeat.
He should have a much easier time of it against Lincoln, and will be hoping not to have to pick the ball out his own net at any stage, let alone on five occasions.
The back four, meanwhile, could be completely switched out. Gibbs and Holding will be expected to feature as part of the four-man line up, but Mertesacker could be a more surprise inclusion.
The 32-year-old club captain has yet to feature for the club this season because of injury, but could be handed some precious time on the playing field in a competitive fixture.
Gabriel, meanwhile, is likely to be preferred at right back to fringe duo Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson.
Youngsters Maitland-Niles and Reine-Adelaide are also set to get a run out, having had to rely largely on Arsenal’s progress in the cup to appear for the first team this season.
Perez and Walcott will continue where they left off against Sutton as Arsenal’s main goalscoring threat, with Perez putting in a man of the match display.
Ozil is still recovering from illness and will be monitored ahead of kick-off, while both Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi have been revealed to have come down with a bug and are doubts.
A win for Arsenal would only temporarily ease the frustrations of the Arsenal faithful after yet another humiliating week under Wenger’s management.
The FA Cup remains Arsenal’s one remaining chance of silverware this season, and they could book their place in the next round with a victory.
In other Arsenal team news, forget Sanchez, this Arsenal man is the one player the club cannot afford to lose.