Arsenal and Everton are set to square off in the marquee matchup of the FA Cup quarterfinals.
It's the second meeting of the campaign between the two sides with the previous encounter ending in a 1-1 draw back in December.
The Gunners are in the middle of a very busy stretch that includes the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. It forces Arsene Wenger to get creative with his lineup decisions in order to maintain the trophy pursuit without overextending his players.
Everton haven't been as busy without European competition to worry about. That said, the Toffees are struggling right now. It's mostly due to an attacking group that hasn't been able to match its success from earlier in the season.
Arsenal will want to avoid a replay, which would add to their already busy schedule, and that should lead to an entertaining, uptempo clash. Let's check out all the key information for the quarterfinal, followed by a preview and prediction.
What's your prediction for the spotlight match?
Where: Emirates Stadium in London, England
When: Saturday, March 8 at 7:45 a.m. ET/12:45 p.m. GMT
Watch: Fox Sports 1 and ITV 1
Match Odds (To qualify; SkyBet via Oddschecker)
Top Storyline: Are Everton in good enough form to hang with Arsenal on the road?
Romelu Lukaku returned from an ankle injury against West Ham. He proceeded to provide an immediate boost to the Everton attack by coming off the bench and scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win. It was a much-needed sight for the fading side.
The Toffees were in Champions League contention for the entire first half of the campaign. Without Lukaku, however, the attack lacked firepower and they slid down the table. His return should provide a boost, but sticking with Arsenal on the road won't be easy.
It was a tough draw, especially considering there are still three lower-division clubs alive in the competition. The Toffees passed along comments from manager Roberto Martinez, who said they can't dwell on that poor luck:
RM: "It's not a time to dwell on the lack of luck we've had in the draw. It's an exciting tie and we're all looking forward to Saturday."— Everton (@Everton) March 6, 2014
For Arsenal, the question becomes exactly how much do they fancy their odds of going into Allianz Arena and overcoming a 2-0 deficit against Bayern Munich. In reality, the odds are extremely low, which means there should be a greater focus on the FA Cup.
If the Gunners can get past Everton, they have a reasonable chance of capturing the trophy. Manchester City is the other major hurdle they may have to cross. That should take precedence over their minuscule hopes in the Champions League.
Should Wenger field a strong squad, there's no doubt it's Arsenal's match to lose. OptaJoe points out Everton have gone 19 straight road matches without a win at the Emirates across all competitions:
0 - Everton have won none of their last 19 away games against Arsenal in all competitions (W0 D4 L15). Barren.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 7, 2014
All told, with Everton still in search of the form they displayed earlier in the campaign and Arsenal intensifying their hunt for a trophy to end their drought, the home side is a clear favorite.
The best thing Everton can do is sit back defensively early in the match. Arsenal are likely to push forward aggressively because they do want to have a replay. If the Toffees can endure that initial surge without falling behind, they'll have a chance.
It's easier said than done, of course. The combination of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla figures to create some serious problems for the Everton back line. And with their struggles offensively, it's unlikely they will be able to keep pace.
Arsenal 3, Everton 1