Predicted XI

Odegaard to start? How Arsenal and Manchester United could line up in Premier League clash

Arsenal will be hoping to take a sizeable chunk out of Manchester United's 10-point lead over them in the Premier League table when the two sides meet

9:53am on Friday 29th January 2021
Stefan Bienkowski

Despite sitting seven positions above them in the Premier League table, Manchester United go into Saturday’s clash with Arsenal as slight underdogs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are coming off the back of a surprise defeat to Sheffield United in midweek, while Mikel Arteta’s rejuvenated Arsenal team have won six of their last eight games in all competitions.

But how will both sides set up in Saturday’s showdown?

Although Arsenal may be slight favourites for this tie, Arteta does still have a number of injuries to overcome if he hopes to put out a team capable of beating Man Utd.

Bernd Leno will keep his spot in goals, but a late fitness test for Kieran Tierney will gauge whether the Scotland international can slot in at left-back. If so, he’ll join Hector Bellerin, alongside a central defensive partnership of David Luiz and Rob Holding.

Arsenal’s midfield will also have to wait for late calls, as Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe wait to see what kind of shape they’ll be in after both were forced to limp off against Southampton on Tuesday. The former is still expected to make a return, but the latter may make way for Martin Odegaard to make his Arsenal debut.

After missing both of Arsenal’s last two games through personal reasons, it seems unlikely that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be asked to start against Man Utd. In his place, we’re like to see Nicolas Pepe alongside Bukayo Saka, with Alexandre Lacazette leading the line for Arteta’s side.

In comparison, Man Utd’s injury concerns seem far more trivial.

The only serious doubt for Solskjaer ahead of Saturday’s game will come in defence, where Eric Bailly is a doubt after picking up a bang in training during the week. If he misses out, Victor Lindelof is likely to step into a familiar back-line of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in front of David de Gea in goals.

With no injury concerns in midfield, the Old Trafford boss is likely to stick with Fred and Scott McTominay in the middle of the pitch, with Paul Pogba in his familiar perch on the left flank.

Up front, Anthony Martial is likely to drop to the bench after a poor performance against the Blades, with Marcus Rashford returning to the right wing and Bruno Fernandes playing off Edinson Cavani.

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