Norwich City-Arsenal Preview
It could be a last chance of sorts for both Arsenal and Norwich City heading into Wednesday's showdown at the Emirates - for the former, the possibility of reviving hopes for European play next season, and the latter, a lifeline for top-flight survival.
The Gunners (10-13-8) are ninth in the table on 43 points, six points behind sixth-place Manchester United. With Manchester City's appeal of UEFA's two-year ban on European play currently in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sixth could carry direct passage into the Europa League - where Arsenal have toiled the last three seasons.
Mikael Arteta's side are playing their first home match since Project Restart commenced, though they do have a second path to Europe. The 13-time FA Cup champions have reached the semifinals with a 2-1 victory at Sheffield United on Sunday, with Dani Ceballos' goal in second-half stoppage time proving the difference in a cagey contest.
The reward for Arsenal is a semifinal date at Wembley Stadium with defending FA Cup champion Manchester City and Arteta's former boss Pep Guardiola - who already handed his one-time assistant a 3-0 hiding earlier this month - but right now the Gunners gaffer is looking forward to playing at the Emirates.
"We really want to play at home," Arteta said at his Tuesday news conference. "That's where we enjoy more, but obviously not having the fans within is a tremendous disadvantage. We want to give them happy moments and enjoyment and at the moment we cannot do that just by seeing them as they have been watching on TV. But it's what we have at the moment.
"A team that is fighting for relegation always has an extra edge," he added, turning the discussion to Norwich City. "They know the difference between playing in the Championship and the Premier League, and they fought really hard to be where they are. I'm expecting a fully committed team and they are really brave with the way they play."
Arteta will again start Emi Martinez since first-choice keeper Bernd Lenois sidelined with a knee sprain suffered in the loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on June 20. He is also sweating late fitness checks for midfielders Mesut Ozil and Lucas Torreira as well as embattled centre back David Luiz, but Cedric Soares is available and a full participant in practice after dealing with a facial injury.
Norwich City (5-6-20) are still languishing at the foot of the table on 21 points, but they do have a match in hand on Aston Villa - one of three sides they trail by six points with seven matches remaining. The Canaries saw their FA Cup adventure come to an end in heartbreaking fashion over the weekend, losing at home 2-1 after extra time to Manchester United.
Todd Cantwell provided hopes of a trip to Wembley with a 75th-minute equaliser, but a red card on defender Timm Klose put Norwich down a man for the last 32 minutes. Two minutes from penalties, the Canaries conceded as their attempt to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1992 was dashed.
"We're disappointed with the outcome," manager Daniel Farke told Norwich's official website. "We left our hearts out on the pitch in order to get into the next round. We wanted to create history. It feels harsh after this performance. I have to compliment my players on their workload, commitment, desire, and quality of them and the way we handled the game. They were fantastic against the team of the moment who had all their players fit and available.
"We had many periods with the momentum on our side and we deserved to win it in 90 minutes. The red card was an unlucky situation and changed the momentum. To lose it feels harsh, but the lads can be proud of this performance."
Klose will be unavailable for this match as he serves his red card ban, leaving Farke looking for options to partner with Ben Godfrey in central defence. In attack, the Canaries are once more hoping Teemu Pukki can rediscover his goal-scoring touch. The Finland international, who blazed into the Premier League with six goals in his first five matches, has not found the back of the net in nine contests dating back to a marker versus Tottenham Hotspur on Jan. 22.
One of his 11 goals, however, did help Norwich City grab a point in the reverse fixture. Pukki and Cantwell scored first-half goals on either side of a penalty by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the Gabon international struck again on 57 minutes to lift Arsenal into a 2-2 draw.
Arsenal are 9-7-2 versus Norwich in the Premier League era and unbeaten in the last eight (6-2-0) in north London in all competitions since a 4-2 loss in 1992.
Updated June 30, 2020