Things to look out for in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend

Everton the latest to try and stop Man City’s Quadruple bid, Leicester and Man United strive for silverware, Bournemouth aim to shock Saints and can Blades cut down Chelsea? Things to look out for in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend

  • FA Cup takes centre stage this weekend as we reach the quarter-final stage
  • Manchester City continue their bid for a historic Quadruple away to Everton
  • Sole EFL survivor Bournemouth host Southampton in a south coast derby
  • Premier League top four chasers Leicester and Manchester United meet
  • Chelsea start as strong favourites to beat Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge 

The Premier League takes a backseat this weekend as the FA Cup quarter-finals grab the attention.

Wembley is very much within view for the eight remaining teams and the draw threw up some enticing ties for the seven Premier League representatives and one from the Championship left in.

We take a look at some of the things to look out for in this weekend’s quartet of games. 

Arsenal won the FA Cup last season – but who will succeed them as winners of the old trophy?

FA Cup Quarter-final fixtures 

SATURDAY

Bournemouth vs Southampton (12.15pm, live on BT Sport 1/BT Sport Ultimate)

Everton vs Manchester City (5.30pm, live on BT Sport 1/BT Sport Ultimate)

SUNDAY

Chelsea vs Sheffield United (1.30pm, live on BBC One/BBC iPlayer)

Leicester City vs Manchester United (5pm, live on BBC One/BBC iPlayer)

Can the Manchester City Quadruple juggernaut be stopped?

History calls for Manchester City as they inch their way closer, week-by-week, to the unprecedented achievement of winning a Quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League.

14 points clear at the top of the Premier League, you have to assume that’s in the bag. The final of the Carabao Cup against Tottenham awaits next month and progress in Europe was sealed thanks to a comfortable win over Borussia Monchengladbach this week.

Pep Guardiola’s team have just one more hurdle to negotiate before two weeks of international football and that’s a trip to Everton on Saturday night.

Manchester City remain on course for a historic Quadruple of trophies as they head to Everton

There could have been easier draws but when you’re on a run of 24 victories from your last 25 matches, nothing is particularly daunting.

While a second string City side did come within nine minutes of being dumped out by League Two Cheltenham Town in the fourth round, they made light work of Championship promotion hopefuls Swansea last time out.

And they saw off Everton, also at Goodison Park, 3-1 in the league just last month.

While Guardiola has to be smart with player management to keep the four-trophy bid on course, it’s unlikely he’ll rest too many of his star players for this one and they’ll be strong favourites.

But we’ve been in a similar situation before and the FA Cup has proved City’s downfall. In 2018, they were on for the Quadruple but were stunned by Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg in round five.

Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring in City’s 3-1 Premier League win at Everton last month

Is Carlo the man to end Everton’s long wait for silverware?

It’s been a long and painful wait for silverware at Goodison Park since they lifted the FA Cup back in 1995.

But with the progress made this season, there is growing hope that serial champion Carlo Ancelotti can lead Everton to success again soon.

You’d fancy their Cup chances now if they hadn’t been paired with the toughest possible opponent but this is precisely the type of big game Everton thrived on in their heyday.

Unfortunately they also come into this one off the back of tame defeats to Chelsea and Burnley which have inflicted a dent on their top four aspirations.

The Carlo Ancelotti era at Everton would really ignite with a cup win but City stand in their way

Considerable improvement will be required on last weekend’s loss to Burnley where they had no answer to their opponent’s high press and made costly mistakes.

There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to playing this tie at Goodison Park, either. Seven of their 10 league defeats this season have come at home, with only the bottom five sides faring worse on their own patch.

Still, you never know what can happen in the FA Cup.

It was an afternoon of frustration for Everton as they lost 2-1 to Burnley last weekend

Championship sole survivors Bournemouth aim for bragging rights

We often romanticise the giantkillers of the FA Cup but in recent years the cream has usually risen to the top by this point in the competition.

In 2018, Wigan’s aforementioned win over Man City saw the League One club as the sole non-Premier League representative in the last eight. A year later, we had two – Swansea and Millwall.

Last season, it was eight out of eight for the Premier League. This time around, only Bournemouth fly the flag for those below the top-flight and they only came down last year.

And even though there is a geographical proximity to Saturday’s opponents Southampton, you can’t escape the feeling that, though pleasant, this Cup run is more of a sideshow to the Cherries.

Bournemouth returned to winning ways against Swansea but promotion is slipping away

The real ambition is to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking and that mission isn’t going so well. They recently dropped out the top six for the first time all season and Barnsley have snatched their play-off spot.

Jonathan Woodgate’s side tuned up for this game with an impressive 3-0 win over Swansea in midweek but we all know what the priority is.

Nonetheless, Bournemouth have enough quality to get the better of struggling Southampton with their front line of Junior Stanislas, Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma talented enough to trouble any defence.

Arnaut Danjuma has been in great form and Bournemouth will fancy their chances of an upset

Can Saints avoid slipping on the banana skin?

Bournemouth’s promotion push may be stalling but their form is nothing on Southampton’s dreadful run of late.

Since beating Wolves to make it into the last eight, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team have lost five, drawn one and won one. And let’s not forget they’d lost four straight prior to that win at Molineux.

The FA Cup has provided a rare source of comfort for Southampton in what has been a miserable 2021 as a potential challenge for the European places imploded into a dive down the table.

It was another miserable weekend for Southampton as they lost at home to Brighton 

Reaching the semi-finals of the Cup would certainly seem pretty incongruous against that league decline and it’s difficult to say if they make the short journey to Bournemouth as favourites.

At least their injury crisis has eased a little but serious issues remain with a leaky defence (32 goals conceded in 2021) and a forward line struggling to carve out chances let alone take them.

Their 2-1 home loss to Brighton last time out was another low point and with confidence on the floor, we really do have all the ingredients for an upset.

It’s been a torrid time for coach Ralph Hasenhuttl and they could easily slip up at Bournemouth

FA Cup success would mark real progress for Solskjaer

What constitutes a season of progress for Manchester United? Finishing second in the Premier League, albeit a distant second to City, is undoubtedly a forward step. There was even the flicker of a title challenge.

But to really feel that United have forward momentum, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to pick up his first trophy and the FA Cup does offer a decent opportunity.

United lost out to Chelsea in last season’s semi-finals, one of three competitions in which they fell at the second-last hurdle, and Solskjaer needs to show they can take that next step.

They impressed in Europe against AC Milan on Thursday night, which will boost confidence they can do so.  

Jamie Vardy’s shot deflected in off Axel Tuanzebe as the teams drew 2-2 on Boxing Day

Sunday sees United head to Leicester in what is a less than ideal draw. They twice threw away a lead at the King Power Stadium in the league on Boxing Day and Leicester also have the luxury of a comfortable league top four placing to allow focus on the Cup.

Solskjaer said in the week that winning cups are ‘sometimes an ego thing’ for managers and the real measure of progress is league results and position.

It’s an unexpected take for a player who won plenty of cups as well as league titles as a United player. Some still have doubts that United are moving forward under his management but winning the FA Cup this season would held remove many of the doubts.

A first piece of silverware for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United would be a landmark moment

First-ever FA Cup success would be truly special for Leicester

Remarkably, Leicester City have never lifted the FA Cup despite reaching four finals, the last of which was in 1969.

The League Cup and of course the Premier League have been in their trophy cabinet more recently but nobody should be counting out Brendan Rodgers’ side.

It would represent a first major piece of silverware in the English game for Rodgers, who came to take cup triumphs for granted north of the border with Celtic.

Leicester have established a firm grip on their top four spot after successive wins over Brighton and Sheffield United, so why not go for glory?

Kelechi Iheanacho (middle) was in sparkling form as he scored three against Sheffield United 

The sparkling form of ex-Man City man Kelechi Iheanacho will have pleased the manager ahead of Sunday’s meeting with United. Three goals in the demolition of Sheffield United and equally pleasing was that Jamie Vardy set two of them up.

Vardy isn’t scoring a great deal at the moment but the assists show what else he offers and he has been a thorn in United’s side in the past.

He will be looking to prey on United’s notoriously slow centre-backs with those trademark runs in behind and nobody will be surprised if Leicester do win this one.

Leicester are in form and will certainly fancy their chances of knocking Man United out

Will Tuchel’s brilliant start extend to Cup glory?

So far, so good for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. 13 games, nine wins, no defeats and just the two goals conceded.

There weren’t too many clear objectives when the German came in following Frank Lampard’s sacking but winning a ninth FA Cup for Chelsea would surely be above and beyond expectations.

Complacency is probably Chelsea’s main enemy when they entertain Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon. The Blades are in disarray after Chris Wilder’s exit and it’s the best possible draw Chelsea could have.

Thomas Tuchel is now unbeaten in 13 games, winning nine, since taking over as Chelsea boss

It seems highly unlikely that the Blades will be able to succeed where Tottenham, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid have failed and crack a suddenly impregnable Chelsea back line.

The greater challenge will be breaking down a United side that will come to Stamford Bridge and set up camp on the edge of their 18-yard box.

Leicester scythed through them at will last week, however, and there’s little to suggest Chelsea won’t do the same.

Tuchel could probably rest a good few of his regulars and still comfortably prevail given the depth of talent available to him.

Tammy Abraham scores Chelsea’s winning goal as they beat Barnsley 1-0 in the last round

A flash of glory for the Blades?

By the same token, it’s a hiding to nothing for Chelsea. Everyone expects them to thrash United, who have been wired to the bottom of the Premier League all season.

FA Cup wins over Bristol Rovers, Plymouth and Bristol City have provided rare success so why not throw caution to the wind and have a real go at Chelsea?

Easier said than done, of course, especially off the back of five defeats from six played since their fifth round progress.

They’ve only managed one goal in that time, conceding 13, but if they can somehow nick an early one at the Bridge and defend heroically, then we might have a sensation.

Sheffield United head to Stamford Bridge at a low ebb but can they cause a shock result? 




Share this article


Source: Read Full Article