This is a replay that neither club really wanted given that they both have priorities elsewhere. It’s taken a while for a date for this replay to be crammed into Arsenal’s already busy schedule and it seems that a slight relaxation of the rules has been permitted to allow it to be played on the same night that Champions League action is taking place.
Hull City have their own fixture congestion to deal with and are currently in the midst of playing 11 games in 35 days. As much as they would love to end Arsenal’s grip on the FA Cup and progress to the quarter-finals, an immediate return to the Premier League is unquestionably more important.
The original game at the Emirates ended in a 0-0 draw as the Tigers frustrated Arsenal with their resolute defending and a number of fine saves from back-up goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.
Both teams were much-changed from their regular line-ups at the Emirates and the same can be expected here, with Arsenal’s 2-2 Saturday lunchtime draw at Tottenham Hotspur ensuring that they remain in the race for the Premier League title.
For Hull’s part, they are very much in the mix for automatic promotion from the Championship and Steve Bruce isn’t likely to send out anything close to a full-strength team here given their own primary aim.
Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny are still out for Arsenal, although the reality is that neither was likely to start here anyway. The problem for Arsene Wenger is that their absence means he may now have to risk players like David Ospina whom he would probably prefer to save for Premier League duty.
What was particularly encouraging for Arsenal at White Hart Lane was that the team showed some fighting spirit in coming from 2-1 down to secure a point after Francis Coquelin had been sent-off. Similar character will be required at the KC Stadium against a Hull team that have been difficult to breakdown all season, even when relying on squad players.
Where Bruce’s team has been struggling of late has been in scoring goals, with just one in their last five league and cup fixtures. They rarely troubled the Gunners in the first game and could struggle to make much of an impression here without their front line strikers. Arsenal will want to retain their grip on the FA Cup and should prevail here with a narrow victory.