The final game of the season for Premier League teams will run its course today as Arsenal and Aston Villa battle for the FA Cup from Wembley Stadium at 12:30pm ET.
European qualification is on the line, as Villa will earn themselves a Europa League berth should they win, while Southampton would take their place if the Gunners should triumph to defend their title. Arsenal hasn’t lost an FA Cup match since falling to Blackburn in the Round of 16 in February 2013.
Both teams have submitted mildly surprising lineups. Theo Walcott retains his striker position after bagging a hat-trick from the head of the attack on the final Premier League day against West Brom. That places Olivier Giroud on the bench to start the game. Wojciech Szczesny gets the start in goal, having been replaced by David Ospina in Premier League play but still retaining his Cup role between the sticks.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: Arsenal vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final ]
Last year’s hero Aaron Ramsey is in the lineup as well, and will support the Gunners midfield alongside attacking-minded Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and Santi Cazorla. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also fit enough for a bench role after making his return from injury with 13 minutes of playing time against West Brom.
Aston Villa also has its cup goalkeeper in, with 39-year-old Shay Given minding the net as he has all season in FA Cup play. Given also replaced the struggling Brad Guzan for three of the club’s final four Premier League matches of the season. The American goalkeeper is on the bench.
Kieran Richardson and Jores Okore both return to the Villa lineup after minor injuries, while Gabriel Agbonlahor must settle for a spot on the bench as manager Tim Sherwood favors an extra midfielder. 19-year-old Jack Grealish is in the lineup after setting up goals in each of Villa’s last two FA Cup matches, including an assist on Fabian Delph’s winning goal against Liverpool in the semifinals.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott.
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Vlaar, Okore, Richardson, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley, Grealish, N’Zogbia, Benteke.
Subs: Guzan, Bacuna, Sinclair, Agbonlahor, Cole, Sanchez, Baker.