LS Sport’s Joseph Begaj previews the upcoming Bradford City vs Arsenal game in the League Cup.
The Fifth Round of the League Cup kicks off on Tuesday December 11 and two local clubs have made the last eight. Whilst Leeds United’s fixture with current ‘Kings of Europe’ Chelsea (delayed a week due to the latter’s commitments in the World Club Championship) may be the stand-out tie of the round; near-neighbours Bradford City are the tournament’s surprise package and have been rewarded with a win over Wigan with a glamour tie at home to Arsenal.
Phil Parkinson’s Bradford are the first Fourth-Tier side to reach the quarter-finals since Wycombe Wanderers’ run to the semis back in 2006/07. The Bantams have left it late during their League Cup adventure so far; an extra time winner saw off Notts County in the First Round, followed by two goals in the last five minutes to secure a 2-1 win at Watford.
A late brace from substitute Nahki Wells forced extra time against Burton Albion before a 30-yard Stephen Darby drive sealed a 3-2 win. In October, over 5,000 travelling supporters witnessed Matt Duke’s penalty heroics at the DW Stadium after a goalless 120 minutes. Arsenal’s campaign began in the Third Round with a 6-1 drubbing of Coventry City, Olivier Giroud’s first goal in a Gunners shirt started the rout, with a rampant home side pillaging another five in the second half. The North Londoners secured their place in the Fifth Round after an extraordinary game at the Madejski; Reading led 4-0 after just 37 minutes before a stirring second-half comeback. Arsenal then led 5-4 until Pogrebnyak’s header levelled proceedings before further goals from Walcott and Chamakh settled the record-breaking cup tie in the Gunners’ favour. 7-5.
This will be City’s first appearance in the quarter-finals since 1989, whereas two-time champions Arsenal lost in the final as recently as 2011. The two sides have never met in the League Cup although previous cup ties have gone the way of the home side. In the 25 previous meetings in all competitions, the Gunners lead 11 wins to nine. The last encounter between the sides was Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Highbury in the Premier League in January 2001.
The Gunners haven’t won at Bradford for 90 years and have only one win to show from their last eight visits to Valley Parade. Arsenal’s inconsistent form has left them adrift of the Champions League places whilst Bradford – enjoying their best season for over a decade – reside in the play-off places following a 3-3 draw at Bristol Rovers. Wenger is likely to field a youthful team but can call on players, such as Cazorla, with the experience and skill to unlock any defence.
The West Yorkshire outfit are missing central-defensive pairing Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies as well as influential winger Kyel Reid to long term injuries. Arsenal start heavy favourites and City will face an uphill task just to keep the score down; but should the tie go to penalties then the Bantams must surely fancy their chances as they are unbeaten in their last eight shoot-outs. A Gunners side with one eye on the top four and with the incentive of a potential semi-final derby against Leeds United, Bradford may just have one more surprise in store.