Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny could start for Arsenal against Hull
LONDON -- Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny may both start for Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup game against Hull as Arsene Wenger prepares to rotate his lineup ahead of next week's Champions League clash with Barcelona.
Welbeck scored the dramatic late winner against Premier League leaders Leicester last Sunday after coming on for his first appearance since April last year, and Wenger said he's physically ready to face Hull. Elneny may get his second start in the competition as well.
"I might start Welbeck, I haven't decided yet completely," Wenger said on Friday at his pregame news conference. "But it crosses my mind to start him tomorrow, yes.
"Elneny has a good chance to play tomorrow. He's ready now, he has worked very hard and it's a good test for me to see him as well. I think he is fighting now for a regular place in the team and I consider him ready like anybody else."
Elneny was in the XI for the previous FA Cup game against Burnley but hasn't played since.
In other team news, Wenger confirmed that Gabriel Paulista will miss out with a hamstring injury, but that Laurent Koscielny should be available after suffering a dead leg against Leicester.
Gabriel is also a major doubt for Tuesday's game against Barcelona, with Wenger saying he probably needs "one more week" to recover.
David Ospina will continue in his role as FA Cup goalkeeper, while Petr Cech may get the day off completely to rest up for Barcelona. Teenage midfielder Alex Iwobi is also likely to feature again, although Wenger promised to field "a strong side, a normal side," and was resisting the temptation to look ahead too much to the Champions League.
"The FA Cup is an opportunity to see some players who have not played recently," Wenger said. "But for me it's a very important game.
"The best way to prepare for Barcelona is to beat Hull tomorrow. If we don't do that we put ourselves in a very bad position to prepare for Barcelona. The momentum is important, and we have to show that mentally we are capable to win and to focus on every single game."
Welbeck is still hoping to play a big part in the last third of the season as Arsenal try to compete on three fronts, and Wenger said he has already shown his character by the way he came back from a nearly 10-month layoff with a knee injury.
The England international had originally hoped to be back for the FA Cup final against Aston Villa last May but then needed an operation after having a setback in training.
"I believe it's always a good observation of a character and the resilience of a person when he is injured for such a long time," Wenger said. "You look at how he can respond with the effort he puts into his rehab, and how focused can he be every day.
"He had a setback, a huge setback, and I think he has become a stronger man with what happened to him.
"He is at the right age for a player. He is 25 years old, and he already has experience. Physically he's back completely to his best. So I believe the best is yet to come for him."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.