Saturdays round of cup matches threw up yet more surprises and shocks synonymous with the FA Cup which included Lincoln City becoming the first non-league side to make it to the Quarter Finals in over 100 years, Huddersfield Town holding the might of Man City to a draw and Premier League Champions Leicester knocked out by Millwall.
3 more games remain in the 5th round, two on Sunday and a peach of a tie on Monday night. We preview them all here.
Sun, 19th Feb 2017 – Fulham v Tottenham – 14.00 BBC One HD
This is a potential banana skin for Tottenham who come into this tie on the back of two defeats. One, a sorrowful first half performance against Liverpool and the 2nd a Europa League defeat in Belgium on Thursday evening. They haven’t had the best of away form and have only won 2 of their last 14 games since September away from home. Factor that with the short rest period from their Europa League tie and it is a potential melting pot of issues which could see another shock defeat in this seasons FA Cup.
Fulham, currently 8th in the Championship, have won 4 successive home matches in all competitions. Their only defeat in 11 games at Craven Cottage came in the new-year match against Brighton. Overall they have only lost 4 of their last 19 League and Cup games so are in decent form.
But they haven’t progressed beyond the FA Cup fifth round since 2010. In that season ironically they were knocked out in the quarter-final by Spurs.
A good piece of news for Fulham is they have a fully-fit squad to choose from with Tomas Kalas available after a recent hip problem.
For Tottenham, they really could do with a win here to alleviate the recent run of poor results. They’ve only won once in their last 4 league games and suffered defeat against Gent in the Europa League on Thursday, a game you’d of expected them to win given the quality they have.
Perhaps Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been exposed recently for a lack of depth. Many feared that they don’t have the quality in the squad beyond the first XI to really mount a charge for silverware this season and failed to strengthen in January.
With that said they do have a good record against lower league opposition winning 12 of their last 13 when pitted against lower leagues.
Some bad news for Spurs going into this London tie is that Harry Kane suffered a minor knee injury in Thursday’s defeat at Gent so unlikely to be involved. As their top goal scorer this season he could turn out to be a huge miss for the North London side. However on a more positive note Jan Vertonghen could in line for a return after missing 6 games with ankle ligament damage.
This is a real interesting tie, one that if took place a 2 month’s back you’d certainly think Tottenham would win comfortably. However with a recent drop in form and poor away form, it does raise question marks over Tottenham’s legitimacy as potential title winners. It also means that this match could be far closer than people thought when the draw was made.
Sun, 19th Feb 2017 – Blackburn Rovers v Man United – 16.15 BT Sport 2 HD
Sunday’s second FA Cup tie, see’s two teams coming together from differing spectrums of the form book as 6th place Premier League side Man United travel to Blackburn to face Owen Coyle’s side one place off the foot of the Championship.
Blackburn have much bigger issues this season than facing Man United on Sunday afternoon as they sit behind Wigan 23rd in the Championship. Since the start of December they have only won twice in the league, losing 7 in that period. Owen Coyle will use this match as welcomed relief from the stress and pressures of the Championship, knowing a scalp against Man United could be the morale boosting result his side needs to finish this season strong.
Whilst their form has been poor of late, Blackburn’s home form has been better losing just one home game in their last 5.
But in reality that should bear no relevance to the outcome of this game, Man United have been very strong recently with a squad full of quality. Blackburn to add to their woes have injuries to key players. Owen Coyle said: “We want every player available so we are able to choose our strongest team. When things get taken away from you because of what’s happened, it is difficult to take.” “But it is what it is and we have to get on with it.”
Man United will go into this game full of spirt, in great form. Whilst the fixtures pile up for Jose Mourinho’s men he has a squad at his disposal that gives him the luxury of making 5 or 6 changes and still fielding a starting XI full of International quality and experience.
Manchester United have won 4 of their last 5 matches in all competitions and have lost just 1 of their previous 9 away matches in all competitions. A 3-0 win over St Etienne on Thursday night all but seals their passage to the next round of the Europa League, knowing they also have an EFL Cup Final to play next Sunday. This means Jose Mourinho will more than likely make changes. Anthony Martial was set a task to fight for his place and has responded. He also enjoys the FA Cup being involved in 9 goals in his last 8 FA Cup games scoring 3 and assisting 6. You’d fully expect him to see in the starting XI.
United have already faced Championship opposition in the previous 2 rounds of this seasons FA Cup, dispatching both Reading and Wigan 4-0.
Whilst Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick are doubts after missing games recently, Phil Jones is expected to return. Sergio Romero could keep his place in the team after an impressive record of 6 consecutive clean sheets when called upon.
This is a match I expect United to win and win comfortably looking forward to the next week that could see them capture their second major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Mon, 20th Feb 2017 – Sutton United v Arsenal – 19.55 BBC One HD
The final game of the FA Cup 5th round is potentially the best, as Non-League Sutton United get the Premier League giant they wanted. Arsenal travel to Sutton who are in the 5th round for the first time in their history.
This will be the game that has all neutrals rooting for the non-league side and they will feel they have a great chance of pulling off potentially the biggest cup upset in the history of the competition. Sutton United have only lost once at home in the last five months. This was in a crushing 6-0 defeat to Dover in November a game in which they played for over an hour with 10 men. They’ve actually won 30 of their 36 league points this season at home, claiming nine of their 10 wins. One factor that is occasionally attributed to this is their 3G pitch something that teams can struggle to get on with. And it will certainly be something that could unsettle an Arsenal side who are known for shying away from difficult conditions and physical battles, both which they will encounter on Monday night.
But the reality is such a gulf in quality, not just technical but also tactical and physical abilities, should be too great for Sutton to contend with. Since beating Leeds in the last round, Sutton haven’t won, losing 3 and drawing once, scoring only 1 goal in that period yet conceding 10. An early goal for Arsenal could lead to a very high scoring win with attacking players filling their boots.
Arsene Wenger will know the FA cup is Arsenal’s only chance of silverware this season after a humbling defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League midweek. They also sit 10 points behind Chelsea now in the Premier League, sitting in their customary 4th spot having lost 2 of their last 3 league games. Their win against Hull City was also hard fought and was marred by controversy. It is a game the Arsenal players will need to play for the badge, whilst the opposition is lowly, they will not give this tie up without a fight. Players like Ozil will need to give more on the pitch than they have given of late.
Arsenal are expected to be without centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who was forced off against Bayern Munich with a hamstring injury. However they won’t have a match now until March 4th so there is no reason for Arsene Wenger to make wholesale changes. A win is a must for Arsene Wenger with mounting pressure from fans and the press, probably the worst in his Arsenal career. But the FA Cup is a competition Arsenal enjoy, and have won 17 of their last 19 FA Cup matches. In fact Arsenal have only lost one FA Cup tie against a non-Premier League club under Arsene Wenger which came against Championship side Blackburn in the fifth round back in 2013. It is a tremendous record they have, and something you wouldn’t expect to change on Monday night.
Sutton will take inspiration from Lincoln City, Millwall who have both beaten Premier League opposition this round, and with the uncertainty of the FA Cup, anything can be possible.
By Michael Thatcher