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Rupert Wyman 23rd Jan 2010 - 17:35

It all depends on how they line up at the Britannia

Stoke face Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round at the Britannia Stadium and as is usual nowadays with cup matches the sides are likely to rest a number of their players.

Therefore it is hard to say which way the match will go as much depends on the respective line-ups that Tony Pulis and Arsene Wenger pick. Arsenal, especially will be wanting to rest some players as they are well and truly in the title race following their excellent form which culminated in them going top of the Premier League in midweek.

If this was a league match I would have no hesitation in backing the in-form Gunners after their two recent wins against a physical Bolton side. If it was a league match though the 5/6 about an away win would be a lot shorter.

However, if we look at the side that Wenger chose in the last round against West Ham it was made up more of squad players than first-teamers although it wasn't the "youth" team as is the case in the Carling Cup.

The returning Sol Campbell could well make his debut and while many said that re-signing the former England international was a good move I was not that convinced myself as he certainly was declining year on year at Portsmouth. Nevertheless Wenger has seen him in training for a few weeks and I would never wish to question his judgement on players even if his eyesight often leaves a lot to be desired during matches.

A big loss, if he is not selected, will be captain Cesc Fabregas. When he is in the side the Spaniard is always at the heart of Arsenal's attacks, therefore when he is not there it leaves a huge hole to fill. In fairness to the Gunners more often than not his absence has not been felt too keenly this season, but an Arsenal side without Fabregas is a much weaker proposition.

It is not only Arsenal that will probably be resting players. Stoke often do in cup matches as well, although the Potters obviously have not got such a big squad that is at the disposal of Wenger.

Without knowing the teams I would blindly back the draw as this seems the safest bet at 5/2. I can't feasibly back the home win as Stoke don't have enough firepower to warrant backing them.

If Arsenal choose a fairly strong side then I would get on as quickly as possible before the 5/6 disappears, but the game truly is one of those that you are best to wait until the teams are known before parting with your money.

The sides have met seven times in the FA Cup, and the Gunners have progressed each time and at odds of 1/3 for them to qualify it most certainly looks like they will continue that run.

However, in the only meeting at the Britannia Stadium between the sides, last season in the league, Stoke were victorious. At that time Pulis' side were fantastic at home and this season they have not been as impressive, as sides have become familiar with their tactics and the vociferous home support doesn't seem to be having the massive influence on the side as it did last term.



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