THOSE venturing inside the luxurious surroundings of the Emirates tomorrow could be forgiven for checking the scoreboard to confirm the identity of Arsenal’s opposition.
Sunderland will not be the team mentioned most in North London – all the focus will be on Barcelona.
If Tuesday’s Champions League tie at the Nou Camp matches the quality of last month’s first leg or last year’s quarter-final, there will be plenty to salivate over.
Arsene Wenger will be praying his side don’t need to over exert themselves and ensure their Premier League challenge is still alive when they return from their Champions League and FA Cup commitments.
If Sunderland surrender in the meek manner produced at Everton last weekend, the Gunners will hardly need to break sweat.
But if the Black Cats can prey upon any complacency among Wenger’s side, there is a golden opportunity to end their losing streak.
Confidence will have undoubtedly been dented by four back-to-back defeats, even if the first three saw positive performances if not points.
But tuning into the Carling Cup final last Sunday should have given Sunderland heart at the sight of the cracks in Arsenal’s armour.
Whether it was complacency, nerves or the absence of the influential Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal struggled to exert their dominance over Birmingham’s work-rate and physicality.
Defensively, the familiar clangers gifted Birmingham the trophy while at the other end, there was a lack of incision without the injured Fabregas.
Read the rest of Chris Young’s verdict in tonight’s Sunderland Echo.