Goalkeeper Daniel Barden set for Arsenal FA Youth Cup chance against Blackpool with Joao Virginia absent

Arsenal face Blackpool away tonight in the first leg of their FA Youth Cup semi-final, but Kwame Ampadu’s side will be without some important members of their squad for the game at Bloomfield Road.

In addition to Reiss Nelson, who is away with England U19s, and the injured Emile Smith Rowe, Arsenal are also deprived of the services of goalkeeper Joao Virginia, who has played every Youth Cup game for the club so far this season but has been called up to the Portugal U21 squad this week.

With Virginia unavailable, Arsenal will turn to first-year scholar Daniel Barden, and the 17-year-old will be determined to seize his opportunity.

Barden is a familiar presence in the U18 squad, having first been named on the bench at that level as a schoolboy two seasons ago.

The prospect signed scholarship terms last summer but struggled with injury in the first half of the campaign and has mainly been backup to Virginia since returning to fitness.

Barden has, however, made two league appearances for the U18s, with the first of those coming in the 5-1 victory away to West Ham United in January, while he kept a clean sheet in the 4-0 thrashing of Norwich City last week.

In addition, Barden received his first call-up to the U23 squad last weekend as he was on the bench for the win over Chelsea.

Arsenal have a host of academy goalkeepers at their disposal at present and Barden will certainly have to be patient if he is to make the cut in the longterm, but tonight represents an excellent opportunity to showcase his credentials.

Schoolboy shot-stopper Arthur Okonkwo, meanwhile, is likely to be on the bench.

Arsenal also have another goalkeeper,Alex Crean, on their books but he hasn’t played all season due to injury.

Possible Arsenal team: Barden; Daley-Campbell, Medley, Ballard, Thompson; Burton, M. Smith; Amaechi, Coyle, John-Jules; Balogun.

Subs: Okonkwo, Olowu, Omole, Swanson, Saka.

International duty: Nelson, Virginia

Injured: Smith Rowe, Crean, Tormey, McGuinness

Other options: Clarke, Spencer-Adams, Beckford, McEneff, Benson, Olayinka

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