Arsenal take on Chelsea in the 2020 Heads Up FA Cup final on Saturday, with a trophy and Europa League football on the line.
After a win on the final day of the season secured them Champions League football, Chelsea are only playing for the chance to win a trophy. Meanwhile, Arsenal need a win just to make it into the Europa League.
We’ve been here before, though, as we said the same thing before last season’s Europa League final. Arsenal needed a win to make it into the Champions League, whilst Chelsea were already in it. We know how that one ended.
A lot changed in over a year since that match. Mikel Arteta is now in charge, and Arsenal’s starting lineup will be a lot different to the one in Baku.
Only Lacazette, Aubameyang, Xhaka and possibly Maitland-Niles are likely to start both fixtures. None of the three goalkeepers in last year’s squad will even feature in this one. Whilst David Luiz will probably start for the opposite team.
Let’s have a look at our full predicted starting lineup for Arsenal.
It was great to see Bernd Leno back in individual training this week, with reports that he’s also returning to full training. However, that won’t be in time to make it back for the final.
Instead, Emi Martinez will retain his spot from the previous rounds. He played every minute of the run to this point. Matt Macey and Karl Hein are likely to take the bench spot and emergency goalkeeper role respectively.
I’m expecting Arteta to go back to a back-three, after the defensive performance against Watford with a four last week. Kieran Tierney and David Luiz should be nailed-on to start, but their usual defensive partner Shkodran Mustafi is out with a hamstring injury.
Rob Holding will almost certainly get the third centre-back spot, but he has a lot to prove after last week’s performance. He did well against Liverpool recently, so we’ll just have to hope for more like that.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is available but clearly not Arteta’s first choice. Sead Kolasinac could play at left-centre-back, but I think we’re all hoping he won’t. Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers join Mustafi on the injury table.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
I have a strong feeling Ainsley Maitland-Niles will start on the left, as he did against Manchester City. His tracking back and defensive ability one-on-one may give him the edge for a match against a big-six team, despite Bukayo Saka’s strong season overall.
Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos will start together in the middle. Regardless of the system and who else plays, there’s little reason for Arteta to drop either of these two.
Hector Bellerin recovered from his tight muscle at the weekend to rejoin full training this week, and he should start. Cedric Soares is ineligible, and as mentioned, I’m expecting Maitland-Niles to start on the left.
I don’t think we’ll get any surprises here, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe will start.
Reiss Nelson looks really bright at the moment, but so did Pepe for the first half against Watford. That seems to be a system that’s working, playing Pepe from the start before bringing on Nelson or Saka when he tires.
Similarly, Eddie Nketiah can come off the bench if necessary, but I’m not expecting him to start over Lacazette.