PREVIEW: The FA Cup Quarter-Finals

Games in order of play:

Middlesbrough vs Manchester City

Middlesbrough – path to the quarter-final: 3-0 against Sheffield Wednesday, 1-0 against Accrington Stanley, 3-2 against Oxford United

Manchester City – path to the quarter-final: 0-5 against West Ham, 0-3 against Crystal Palace, 0-0 against Huddersfield Town (5-1 in the replay)

The all Premier League clash may not seem like much of a contest, given City’s form in the cup this far, but Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough may see this as a real chance of some silverware this season if they can edge this game at The Riverside.

Though you can bet both teams will give this their all at such a crucial time in the competition, interests may lie elsewhere for Middlesbrough and Manchester City. Looming just one place above the relegation zone, Boro face some pivotal ties in the next few weeks to try and seal their status as a Premier League team next term.

Pep Guardiola’s side may also be concentrating on other competitions in the coming weeks. While City find themselves 5-3 to the good in the round of 16 of the Champions League against AS Monaco, you can be sure that the French side will be looking to make those three away goals count when The Sky Blues travel to the Stade Louis II on the 15th March.

Could Pep Guardiola face an upset against Boro? (Photo: Milos Radovanic)

Both sides find themselves on either ends of the spectrum at the minute, with Middlesbrough struggling to find the net and City knocking in the goals for fun, this game could see another team bow down and get thumped by City. Sergio Aguero and his City colleagues have found the goal 14 times in the past 5 games, where as Alvaro Negredo and co have had a tougher time of it; scoring just 4 times in their last 5 matches.

In terms of selection for this tie, I would expect both managers to select sides similar to those that played against Huddersfield Town and Oxford United respectively. With the exception of Negredo starting this game and Ramirez coming into the fold, I would expect a much unchanged side from Aitor Karanka.

As for The Citizens, squad rotation could be key in remaining competitive in the Premier League, Champions League and the FA Cup. While the likes of De Bruyne and Sane started against Huddersfield in the last round, the likes of Fabian Delph, David Silva, Jesus Navas and even youngster Kelechi Iheanacho could get a start in the squad this round.

 

Arsenal vs Lincoln City

Arsenal – path to the quarter-final: 1-2 against Preston North End, 0-5 against Southampton, 0-2 against Sutton United

Lincoln City – path to the quarter-final: 0-0 against Guiseley (1-2 in the replay), 2-1 against Altrincham, 3-2 against Oldham, 2-2 against Ipswich (1-0 in the replay), 3-1 against Brighton & Hove Albion, 0-1 against Burnley

Arsenal’s first game at home in the competition welcomes Danny Cowley’s giant killing side to the Emirates in what will be an interesting test for the North London team.

The Emirates. (Photo: Paul Hudson)

Beating Premier League Burnley in the fifth round, courtesy of a Sean Raggett header 3 minutes from time, was enough to send Imps fans into pure ecstasy and send a non-league side into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in 103 years.

Arsenal have had somewhat of an easier route in getting to this stage, despite having a slight scare by Preston North End in round three. Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud on that occasion were enough to send the Gunners through.

Both sides have enjoyed differing seasons so far, with Lincoln occupying the top spot in the National League and also finding themselves in the semi-final of the FA Trophy.

In contrast, Arsenal were defeated by Bayern Munich 10-2 on aggregate in the round of 16 of the Champions and they’re 13 points off leaders Chelsea in the Premier League.

With pressure mounting on Arsene Wenger to bring Silverware back to the Emirates this season, you can expect a strong squad to feature against Lincoln. Two wins from the last five fixtures for Arsenal suggests a similar squad that beat Sutton at Gander Green Lane a fortnight ago will be the most likely tactic for Wenger this time out.

Lucas Perez looks set to get another rare start in the Arsenal squad after his man of the match winning performance against Sutton but Mohamed Elneny is doubtful with an ankle injury he sustained in the 2-0 victory against the non-league side.

Arsenal also have a bug going through their side, with Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck doubtful.

Danny Cowley has no injury concerns for the Imps’ trip down to the Emirates. New signings Billy Knott and Josh Ginnelly are cup tied, as is Brighton loanee Joe Ward. New loan signing Dayle Southwell is in contention but it remains to be seen whether Cowley will put his faith in Jack Muldoon once again to lead the line, after the forward started the Burnley clash.

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Millwall

Tottenham – path to the quarter final: 2-0 against Aston Villa, 4-3 against Wycombe Wanderers, 0-3 against Fulham

Millwall – path to the quarter final: 5-2 against Braintree, 3-0 against Bournemouth, 1-0 against Watford, 1-0 against Leicester

Spurs managed to avoid a North London derby with both rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the quarter-finals but couldn’t avoid South London club Millwall in their quest to capture the FA Cup for the first time in 26 years.

It might not have the billing as two Premier League heavyweights going toe-to-toe but you can expect a ferocious encounter when both London sides take to the White Hart Lane pitch.

Beating three Premier League teams already in this competition, Neil Harris’s squad will be hoping to pull off another giant killing and set up a near to home semi-final at Wembley. The Lions are unbeaten in their last 16 in all competitions and with star striker Steve Morrison scoring 13 goals this term, it’s not going to be a foregone conclusion for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

That 13 goal tally doesn’t quite match up to Tottenham’s talismanic striker though. Harry Kane has found the net on 17 occasions this season, 6 of which have come in the last 3 games. The England forwards goals, along with the best defensive record in the Premier League is the reason the North London club find themselves second in the league.

Despite finding themselves in this position though, they still trail Chelsea by 10 points in the race for the title. This combined with a 3-2 aggregate loss to Gent in the Europa League, makes this the most realistic chance of a trophy this season.

Pochettinos’s tactic of playing a strong squad in the cup looks set to continue. As usual, Michel Vorm will take his place between the sticks for Tottenham in this competition, as youngsters Harry Winks and Josh Onomah will hope to get a run out in the squad against Millwall.

Harry Kane picked up a knock in the match against Stoke but looks set to be fit for this one, so too will England team mate Dele Alli. The midfielder has an impressive goal tally of his own; netting 12 goals in all competitions this season and making himself one of the most coveted midfielders this season in the Premier League.

Will Harry Kane continue his hot-streak against Millwall? (Photo: Allan Slank)

Millwall will have to make at least one change to their match day squad for their trip across London. Defender Jake Cooper was dismissed in the last cup game against Leicester so will miss out and most likely be replaced by Shaun Hutchinson. Steve Morison could keep his place in the starting line-up but strikers Harry Smith and Lee Gregory have started the subsequent three games after the 1-0 victory in the fifth round.

 

Chelsea vs Manchester United

 Chelsea – path to the quarter final: 4-1 against Peterborough, 4-0 against Brentford, 0-2 against Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manchester United – path to the quarter final: 4-0 against Reading, 4-0 against Wigan, 1-2 against Blackburn

This match needs little introduction. Despite these two sides coming from different ends of the country, this tie has produced some great games through the years.

As United look to win back to back FA Cup trophies, the Blues will hope they can end their 5 year drought of winning this competition.

With both sides scoring 10 goals in their previous ties this year, the highest of any team, you can ensure this game has plenty of goals and drama when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge.

While United and Chelsea have both reached this stage of the cup, they find themselves having very differing seasons so far. Chelsea are currently top of the league and ten points clear of London rivals Tottenham, while their Manchester counterparts are 6th in the league after a slow start under new manager Jose Mourinho.

Despite a much improved middle of the season and the bonus of winning the Capital One Cup, following a 3-2 win against Southampton at Wembley, earlier results in the season may strike a blow for Mourinho and United’s hopes of reaching the top four and the all important Champions League spot.

Chelsea are going from strength to strength under Antonio Conte and remain a dominant force in the league this season, including an impressive 4-0 win for the Blues the last time these two teams met back in October.

Helping fire Chelsea to the top of the table this season, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have got the lion share of the goals for the South London side. Costa finds himself on 16 goals this season, which is fourth highest in the league, while Hazard has found the net on 10 occasions.

With low squad depth this season, United were expected to struggle is terms of goals and the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the start of the season was viewed as a panic move for the Red Devils. However, with 15 goals in the league and 5 in the domestic cups, the Swede has made himself a real asset and an irreplaceable squad member for the club.

Although, Ibrahimovic has made a real impact for the club, goals from other individuals on the pitch have been difficult to come by. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have struggled to find the form that saw them play a big part in the United squad last season. The pair have three goals each this term and along with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 3goals and Juan Mata’s 6, United face the ‘one man team’ label, but they’ll be without Ibrahimovic as he’s suspended for elbowing Tyrone Mings.

(Photo: Harriet Lander)

A similar team to the one that played Blackburn in the last round seems to be in Mourinho’s plans, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to feature after missing the EFL Cup Final win against Southampton and the Premier League draw against Bournemouth. Sergio Romero is set to keep his place in goal, while Luke Shaw might return and replace Ashley Young at left-back.

In contrast, Chelsea have chosen to play a weakened side in each of the previous rounds. The Blues gave chances to Nathan Ake, Nathan Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the 0-2 win against Wolves in the fifth round and could feature again. Spanish winger Pedro could also be a threat for Chelsea in this tie. The attacker has got 3 goals in his previous 3 in all competitions and has a total of 4 goals in the FA Cup this season.

Expect high intensity, huge drama and a game that is billed to be one of the best of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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