The English FA Cup is set to take center stage this week, with teams battling it out for a chance to lift the world’s oldest cup competition. It also has the added advantage of offering the winner a gateway to next season’s UEFA Europa League.
The competition is still in its fifth round and some of the favorites i.e. the Premier League teams will be in action.
Burnley VS Bournemouth (Turf Moor stadium)
Burnley will host the Championship side after making light work of Fulham; 3-0 in the previous round. On its part, Bournemouth narrowly edged League Two side, Crawley Town 2-1.
Both teams are having contrasting fortunes at the moment. While Sean Dyche’s men may have just one point from their last 3 games, their recent run of form has seen them well above the relegation zone.
On the other hand, the Cheeries have only won two of their last six games in all competitions, a dismal run that led to the sacking of manager, Jason Tindall.
Everything points to a cagey encounter but with Bournemouth yet to name a new permanent boss, the smart money will be on Burnley to progress.
Prediction: (under 3.5 Goals)
Manchester United VS West Ham (Old Trafford)
Once again, David Moyes will be back in Manchester, a city where he failed to make his mark seven seasons ago. The circumstances are different now, with his Hammers side performing beyond expectations this season.
The Red Devils overcame their fierce rivals, Liverpool, in an entertaining end-to-end affair in the 4th round while West Ham rolled over Doncaster 4-0.
In the last five games between both sides, United and West Ham have won two each with one draw between them.
United has also managed just two wins from their last five games in all competitions, while the Hammers have mustered 3 wins in the same amount of matches.
With their Premier League title hopes flagging, the FA Cup is probably Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best chance of lifting the first trophy of his reign as the Red Devils’ manager.
Paul Pogba is set to miss out for the hosts after hobbling off in the game against Everton. Similarly, West Ham will be unable to call on Thomas Soucek following his controversial red card against Fulham.
Prediction: (Over 2.5 Goals)
Swansea VS Manchester City (Liberty Stadium)
Swansea will be meeting Pep Guardiola’s rampant team for only the second time in FA Cup history. The first-ever encounter was a humdinger that needed a last-gasp winner from Sergio Aguero to swing the tie in the Cityzens’ favour (3-2).
The Swans have a miserable record against Man City as they have lost 13 of the sixteen encounters between both sides.
Both teams go into this game in sensational form. Steve Cooper’s men have won five of its last six games in all competitions. This has seen them rise to third in the Championship, just two points behind leaders Norwich City with a game in hand.
Guardiola’s men have blown everyone away recently with a Premier League record of 14 straight wins in all competitions.
Goals are expected to flow and it is hard to see anything other than a Manchester City win.
Leicester City VS Brighton (King Power Stadium)
Leicester City will be looking to make it to the quarter-final of the FA Cup for the second consecutive season for the first time since the 1960s. Brendan Rodgers’ team defeated Brentford 3-1 in the previous round while Brighton edged Blackpoolby a 2-1 scoreline.
Brighton has failed to beat Leicester in their last seven meetings in all competitions. They’ve lost 5 and drawn two, including a 3-0 loss at the King Power in this season’s first Premier League encounter.
The Seagulls have been in brilliant form with consecutive wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool pushing them up the table and away from danger.
Leicester have been patchy in recent times but have won more than they have drawn/lost.
With both teams committed to playing good football, it is expected to be an absorbing encounter that
Everton VS Tottenham (Goodison Park)
In what looks to be the star match in this round of FA Cup games, the Toffees will be eager for a first quarter-final appearance in more than 6 years.
Both sides are well out of the Premier League title race and know that they face an uphill battle to get a Top 4 spot. This has made the FA Cup more attractive than ever to both Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho.
Games between these two sides have tended to be high scoring encounters with Spurs enjoying the upper hand in recent times. However, the Toffees did win the Premier League encounter between them this season 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium thanks to a Dominic Calvert-Lewin header.
Both coaches are expected to go for it by fielding full strength teams which will make for an entertaining spectacle for both fans and neutrals alike
Wolverhampton Wanderers VS Southampton (Molineux)
Two very off-colour teams clash in this encounter with a loss spelling troubles for either side.
Wolves edged past Non-League side, Chorley 1-0 in the previous round while the Saints beat last season’s winners; Arsenal by the same scoreline.
Wolves’ form has tallied off badly this season with just one win in the last 5 games in all competitions. On the other hand, an injury-riddled Southampton has been abject with five straight losses including the miserable 9-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester United.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will be looking to capitalize on the Saints’ problems by getting a morale-boosting win with January signing, Willian Jose keen to get his first goal for the club.
Ralph Hasenhüttl has his hands full trying to get his side back to its early-season form and this FA Cup clash could be just the right avenue to get this done.
Barnsley VS Chelsea (Oakwell Stadium)
It is hard to see anything other than a win for the Blues in this encounter.
Since the sacking of Frank Lampard, the team seems to have finally found a working structure under new man, Thomas Tuchel.
The Colliers as Barnsley are nicknamed have been just about average in the Championship and are stuck in mid-table.
An earlier meeting between both sides in the Carabao Cup saw Chelsea trash Valerian Ismael’s men 6-0 with Kai Havertz getting a hattrick.
The German will be amongst the players hoping to get game time away from the Premier League to fit into Tuchel’s long term plans.