London: Arsenal continue their defence of the FA Cup with a home tie against lower division opposition in the fifth round but manager Arsene Wenger has promised the Gunners will not be taking Middlesbrough lightly.
Boro are currently top of the Championship table and produced one of the shocks of the previous round by winning 2-0 at Premier League champions Manchester City. Arsenal won 3-2 at Brighton and Hove Albion, another Championship side, that weekend and Wenger admitted there would be no excuses should the Gunners fail to progress.
Players warm up during an Arsenal training session. (Inset) Arsene Wenger. Pic/Getty Images
“They are not afraid to take on the big boys,” the Frenchman said of Aitor Karanka’s side. “They are well organised, play good football and they are very creative. We won’t be surprised by them. We don’t have the excuse to be surprised as they beat Manchester City. It is a big opportunity as well -- that is how we have to look at it.”
Wenger confirmed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be recalled and hinted at a debut for new signing Gabriel Paulista, the centre-back who joined from Villarreal last month. Szczesny lost his place to David Ospina following a run of sub-standard performances and being caught smoking in the dressing room following a 2-0 defeat at Southampton.
The Pole played against Brighton however and Wenger said: “He is completely ready and determined to play.”
Gabriel too good
As for Gabriel, Wenger said: “He is a player who has overall good qualities: good pace, good in the air, good in one against one, but it’s best I don’t talk too much and let him play and he shows how good he is.”
Arsenal vs Middlesbrough: Star Sports 4 & Star Sports HD 4, 21:30