Arsenal versus Tottenham Hotspur is always a significant fixture at youth level, but tomorrow night’s meeting between the two rivals is especially important as they face eachother in the fourth round of the most prestigious tournament at U18 level in England, the FA Youth Cup.
This is the first time that the clubs have met in this competition for a decade and, in contrast to regular games at Meadow Park, tickets have been issued, with Arsenal and Tottenham supporters to be segregated.
The team news for Arsenal going into this game isn’t especially positive, with both Tyreece John-Jules and Bayli Spencer-Adams having been ruled out with injuries.
Folarin Balogun should lead the line in John-Jules’ absence, while schoolboy Mazeed Ogungbo, who featured as a substitute against Northampton Town in the previous round, could be promoted to the starting line-up to replace Spencer-Adams in defence.
Against Northampton Arsenal elected not to play Bukayo Saka, who was involved with the first-team that week, while Xavier Amaechi missed out through injury.
Both players are available on this occasion, although it remains to be seen if they will start as they featured for the U23s against Manchester City on Monday.
If Arsenal are serious about winning the Youth Cup, however, they must start Saka and Amaechi, with the wingers capable of deciding the outcome of the tie if they are at their best.
That’s not to discredit the other options at Arsenal’s disposal. Sam Greenwood has adapted extremely well after joining from Sunderland, while Ben Cottrell has also caught the eye for the U18s in the league.
Saka and Amaechi, though, possess vast experience of U23 football and Saka has also learnt much from being in and around the first-team squad.
Trae Coyle, who can play out wide or as an attacking midfielder, will also hope to start and will be determined to provide a reminder of the quality that he possesses.
Deeper in midfield, Matt Smith will be tasked with attempting to set the tempo for Arsenal, with James Olayinka likely to be deployed alongside him.
Vontae Daley-Campbell, who still hasn’t committed to a professional contract, is set to start at right-back, while at left-back Zak Swanson should see off competition from Joel Lopez, and Mark McGuinness is ready to feature at centre-back.
In goal, Karl Hein impressed in the last round but may miss out due to injury, with Arthur Okonkwo ready to step in. If that is the case then schoolboy goalkeeper Remy Mitchell may make the bench.
It is clear that Tottenham will be no pushovers. They are top of the U18 Premier League, two points ahead of Arsenal and can call upon some excellent prospects.
Troy Parrott, for example, boasts 11 goals in just seven U18 appearances this season, while Rodel Richards is also a threat.
Winger Dilan Markanday is another player to watch out for and Mauricio Pochettino’s son, Maurizio, could make an appearance.
Arsenal will certainly have to be at their very best if they are to prevail and it should be an absorbing contest.
If Saka and Amaechi start then it could well swing the game in Arsenal’s favour as they look to make it through to the next round where the winners will face either West Bromwich Albion or Queens Park Rangers.
Possible Arsenal team: Okonkwo; Daley-Campbell, McGuinness, Ogungbo, Swanson; M. Smith, Olayinka; Amaechi, Coyle, Saka; Balogun. Subs: Mitchell, Lopez, McEneff, Greenwood, Cottrell.
Other options: Musah, Azeez, Alebiousu, Dennis, Flaherty, Martin, Matthews.
Injured: John-Jules, Clarke, Spencer-Adams, Barden, T. Smith