Arsenal face Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
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NO QUARTER GIVEN
KEY BATTLE - VERMAELEN v LUKAKU
The clash between Belgian compatriots Thomas Vermaelen and Romelu Lukaku could prove pivotal to Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final. Both are returning from injury and their fitness levels will be tested in a game that is likely to be physcially intense, if December's 1-1 draw at the Emirates is anything to go by.
Vermaelen is an admirer of his international team-mate, and stressed his strength and power in his programme notes for this game. However, where he should have an advantage is in the air, where Lukaku only wins 36.3 per cent of his duels. The Arsenal centre back, meanwhile, wins 50 per cent of his and an impressive 63.9 per cent of his overall duels (compared to Lukaku's 33.5 per cent).
Where the Everton striker will cause more problems in on the floor, and his ability to spin off opposing centre backs and race in behind the defence is particularly hard to deal with. But Vermaelen is no slouch and his pace and raw strength should be more than a match for the 20-year-old. Against a forward of Lukaku's size and speed, staying switched on at all times will be absolutely imperative.
Belgium are seen by many as one of the dark horses for this summer's World Cup, and when you look at the quality of this contest it is easy to see why. Whoever comes out on top on Saturday will have made a telling contribution for their side.
ARSENAL v EVERTON - MATCH FACTS
- Arsenal and Everton have only met three times before in the FA Cup with the last time being in 1981. The Toffees have won twice (1910 & 1981) and Arsenal once (1928)
- Everton have won none of their last 19 away games against Arsenal in all competitions (W0 D4 L15), but have drawn the last two visits
- Robert Martinez was coach of the Wigan Athletic side who won the FA Cup last season. His side’s victory came three days before being relegated from the Premier League with a defeat at the Emirates Stadium
- Arsenal are unbeaten at the Emirates Stadium in their last 13 matches in domestic competition, winning 10 and drawing three
- The Gunners have conceded just three goals in their last 13 domestic games at the Emirates, but Everton were one of those scorers in a 1-1 draw in the Premier League in December
- Mesut Ozil’s last goal for Arsenal came in the 1-1 draw against Everton back on December 8
- Arsenal have progressed in 10 of their last 11 quarter finals, the exception being their last one in 2011 when they lost 2-0 to Manchester United
- Arsenal have only lost two home FA Cup ties under Arsène Wenger in 39 matches (W27 D10 L2); against Leeds in the fourth round in 1997 and versus Blackburn last season in the fifth round
- Everton have only won one of their last 10 FA Cup matches away from home against a fellow top-flight team (W1 D4 L5)
- Steven Naismith has scored three goals in his last two FA Cup appearances
- The last team to beat Everton in an FA Cup match were Wigan Athletic last season in the quarter final, who were managed by Martinez
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