Sunderland vs Arsenal – Match preview and prediction

Arsenal’s high of a last-gasp Thierry Henry winner at the Stadium of Light in his final Premier League appearance for the club was snatched and broken by a rampant AC Milan on Tuesday. The Italian champions decimated a poor Gunners performance and now Arsene Wenger takes his side back to Sunderland in the fifth round of the FA Cup looking for a quick turnaround.

Wenger publicly criticised his players following the loss in the San Siro and reports stated the Arsenal boss hauled his players into a meeting at Thursday training to give them a further piece of his mind. Questions have been asked about the quality of Arsenal’s squad this week with former midfielder Emmanuel Petit especially damning the performances of Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey. Both players are expected to feature at the Stadium of Light as Arsenal look to progress through a tricky all-Premier League fixture. Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker after the Gunners boss revealed his German international defender faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ankle problem. Gervinho has returned from the African Cup of Nations and is expected to start against Sunderland on Saturday.

Sunderland were disappointed with the result against Arsenal last weekend and have benefited from a week’s rest whilst the Gunners were in European action. The Black Cats could see the return of midfielder Lee Cattermole following his hamstring problem and his presence in the centre will be a welcome boost for Martin O’Neill. Nicklas Bendtner is back in full training, but is ineligible to play against his parent club, so Fraizer Campbell is expected to lead the line once again. Campbell’s return has been positive for Sunderland and the former Manchester United striker is one string in O’Neill’s attacking bow of James McLean, Stephane Sessegnon and former Gunner Sebastian Larsson.

Keen to atone for the midweek loss in Milan, Arsenal will be fired up and desperate to perform for the 4,200 travelling fans making the trip from North London to the North East. Wenger is expected to keep with his stars, but may have one eye on the crunch North London derby next weekend against Tottenham. Sunderland have been in good form since O’Neill’s appointment before Christmas and they can add to Arsenal’s misery with a victory at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have a wonderful chance to put Arsenal out of the cup and raise the decibels on the Arsenal boo-boys once more.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Arsenal v Tottenham

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