Manager Arsene Wenger has used the competition in recent years to blood youngsters and field fringe players and did so when a second-string side edged out West Bromwich Albion in a penalty shootout in the third round.
“I will rotate against Chelsea but play with a team that has a good chance to qualify as well. That will be the target,” Wenger said. Arsenal have not won the trophy since 1993 when they beat Sheffield Wednesday. They lost to Chelsea in the 2007 final and to Birmingham City at the same stage four years later.
Adding spice to tonight’s tie is the Premier League positions of the two clubs, with Arsenal two points clear of their London rivals at the top of the table. Wenger’s team have a tough sequence of games coming up that will test their credentials as title contenders. They host third-placed Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday and then, after travelling to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, they take on Manchester United at Old Trafford.
There is one other all-Premier League clash this evening, with Manchester United, who came back from 2-1 down to beat Stoke City 3-2 on Saturday, hosting Norwich City at Old Trafford.
Championship pacesetters Burnley will fancy their chances of causing an upset when they host West Ham United. Burnley, who spent one season in the Premier League in 2009-10, have won eight and drawn one of their last nine league games and manager Sean Dyche said Saturday’s home victory over promotion rivals Queens Park Rangers was their best performance so far.
Two other second-tier sides welcome Premier League opposition tonight.
Surprise 2011 winners Birmingham, who stunned Arsenal at Wembley with a late Obafemi Martins winner, entertain Stoke while Leicester City, who won the trophy in 1997 and 2000, take on Fulham.