Match preview – Arsenal U23s face Middlesbrough in Premier League Cup

After managing to scrape through to the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup, Arsenal U23s take on Middlesbrough away this evening as they look to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.

Arsenal’s form in this competition has been wildly inconsistent, but in mitigation the side has been rotated frequently and some of the fixtures in the group stages were played during international breaks, which deprived the team of some of their key stars.

If Arsenal are to prevail against Middlesbrough then it is likely that their front three will have a major part to play.

Omari Hutchinson and Marcelo Flores are in fine form, while striker Mika Biereth often makes a major contribution even when he doesn’t score, with his linkup play and movement being of a very high standard.

It is possible that Nathan Butler-Oyedeji or Joel Ideho could start if coach Kevin Betsy rotates his team, but the trio of Hutchinson, Biereth and Flores would most likely cause lots of problems for Middlesbrough.

Behind them, with Charlie Patino not quite ready to feature, Miguel Azeez should partner Jack Henry-Francis at the base of the midfield. Arsenal will be looking for more from Azeez and will hope that he can create plenty of openings for the front three.

Zak Swanson is back available after being on the bench for the first-team and it seems likely that he and James Olayinka could provide some experience in the wing-back positions.

First-team goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo will start, with the back three likely to consist of Reuell Walters, Alex Kirk and Mazeed Ogungbo.

Bradley Ibrahim and Lino Sousa have also travelled and will hope for runouts at some stage.

Arsenal trained at North Shields FC yesterday in preparation for the game, with Gunners legend Malcolm MacDonald taking time to speak to the squad.

Betsy is still without a host of players, with Catalin Cirjan, Ben Cottrell, Omar Rekik and Kido Taylor-Hart among those who are injured.

Middlesbrough, who are in the second division of Premier League 2, are in terrible form having lost their last four games but Arsenal can’t take anything for granted and will have to be wary of midfielder Jeremy Sivi.

The game kicks off at 6pm and will be shown live on arsenal.com.

Possible team:

A. Okonkwo

Walters-Kirk-Ogungbo

Olayinka-Azeez-Henry Francis-Swanson

Hutchinson-Biereth-Flores

Subs: Ejeheri, Ibrahim, Sousa, Ideho, Butler-Oyedeji.

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