As mismatches go, Arsenal hosting Coventry City in the FA Cup takes the cake.
Arsenal is currently atop the Premier League table and 54 places above Coventry City in English football. The last time these teams met, Arsenal won easily, 6-1. The Gunners are at home, where they've lost just three times in all competitions this season.
Coventry City might be reminded of that old Simon and Garfunkel line from Mrs. Robinson, "Every way you look at it you lose." But there's still a game to be played, so let's break it down.
When: Friday, January 24 at 2:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. GMT
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
Watch: FOX Sports 1; FOX Soccer 2Go; BT Sport 1 (U.K.)
To either the relief or exasperation of Arsenal fans, forward Nicklas Bendtner is fit and ready to play, according to Kevin Palmer of ESPNFC. Palmer also notes that Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky are out for this match.
Bendtner is the butt of more than a few Gooner jokes, but he's actually played decently for Arsenal this season. His two goals and an assist in 12 total appearances have been pretty timely, like his go-ahead, 88th-minute goal against Cardiff City. Beyond that, keeping Olivier Giroud rested and on-form down the stretch in a Premier League title hunt is key.
While Arsenal has their eyes on that bigger prize—and the Champions League is a bigger priority as well—don't expect the Gunners to take this match lightly. Manager Arsene Wenger certainly isn't taking the FA Cup for granted, as he told Palmer:
The only competition I could watch in France when I was a kid was the English FA Cup final. On black and white television, we saw every year the cup final. It is a very prestigious competition for me.
It’s true that maybe it has not got the glamour any more nowadays that it had in the 60s and 70s but it is still a very important competition.
I remember [as a kid] always admiring Wembley’s pitch. I used to play on really bad pitches and the white ball was also for me a dream. I played with balls with laces at the time, so that was something special to watch.
Coventry City certainly will be taking the match seriously. The League One side is currently mid-table in that competition, but it has a chance to really make this season memorable with a win over the Gunners. And this season has been anything but memorable thus far, as Ged Scott of BBC Sport writes:
The Sky Blues are the team who started the season under a 10-point penalty, have spent half of the season under a transfer embargo, currently play their 'home' matches 35 miles away and only get to see the majority of their fiercely loyal fans at away matches.
But hey, in the FA Cup anything can happen, right?
Indeed, anything can happen. That doesn't mean it will, however.
Which team wins?
Even without several key players—and with the club likely to bench several more to keep them fresh in league play—Arsenal are the obvious favorites here. Yes, last year's shocking 1-0 loss to Blackburn at home in this competition is a reminder of how unpredictable the FA Cup can be but it's also a reminder to Arsenal of how easily they can blow this game if they don't take it seriously.
And Arsenal really, really need to end their title drought. That may not ultimately happen in this year's FA Cup but don't expect Coventry City to end the dream. Arsenal wins, 3-0.