The Quarter Finals. The Last Eight. One Game From Wembley. Call it what you want, but we’ve reached the business end of the FA Cup, and we know that the winner will be one of the eight teams that remain. We have six remaining top flight sides, with at least one featuring in each of the four ties. As an added twist, there are to be no replays this year – we must have a result on the day. If I had a gameshow crowd, they would be whooping now. With only four matches to preview, you’re going to see some great padding. Let’s get to it.
The weekend starts with an all Premier League clash as Man City travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday lunch time. Middlesbrough are on a dire run of form and have found themselves dropping into the bottom 3 at very much the wrong time of the season, so the FA Cup might actually be a welcome distraction for them. Or, it’s actually the perfect time to bow out with some dignity and focus on staying up. Let’s be fair, Middlesbrough don’t score goals or even look like scoring goals, so maybe they can play for penalties? I have a lot of time for Pep, he’s taken the competition seriously and genuinely seems to want to win it. They’re in good form, too, and I think they’ll win easily. Sorry Middlesbrough fans, but you’ve got survival to think about. That can be fun too.
Who doesn’t want to see England’s latest crisis club face a non-league side at home? I’m sure people will be tuning in in their droves to see Arsenal take on Lincoln. Wenger is under more pressure than ever before, having fallen out with his star player (allegedly), gone out of the Champions League (heavily) and seen his own supporter base protest against him (partially). In many ways, at home to a club outside of the football league is the perfect match to get yourselves back on track, but who knows anymore? Lincoln have ripped up everything I thought I knew about football this season. Anyway, I don’t doubt Arsenal will win. 1-0 (AET). I kid, of course, it’ll probably be something stupid like 4-1 and Wenger will be able to zip his coat up. And people will still say the season hasn’t been a success.
Onto Sunday then and the FA Cup shares the billing with Sky’s Live Premier League football (Liverpool vs Burnley). So it’s a good job we’ve got a great game to look forward to, as Spurs welcome League One Millwall. Really? Tottenham will be delighted, though they are probably less motivated by the prospect of a trip to Wembley given their multiple failures there this season and the fact they’ll play all their home fixtures there next season. I hate that, by the way. Wembley is meant to be sacred, something to aim for, the home of our famous national team. The place for winners. Not Spurs away on a February afternoon. Anyway, Spurs will be going to Wembley whether they like it or not, though Millwall will give a good account of themselves I’m sure.
The main event takes place on Monday evening, as Manchester United travel to Chelsea. Which means loads of footage about Mourinho going back to Stamford Bridge. Of course, he already did that and lost 4-0, but we’ll gloss over that for the sake of a narrative. He wants revenge lads, make a spooky looking montage about it. There will be no Ibrahimovic for Man Utd, and with the Europa League a passage to the Champion League coming up on Thursday, I secretly think Jose will not be hugely bothered with an exit here. He certainly won’t want extra time, put it that way. Chelsea are far and away the best team in the Premier League this season and assuming they play their full strength team, I think they’ll win. They’re a good bet for the double, actually. Mourinho, I think, will settle for the EFL Cup and Champions League qualification, whether it be via winning the Europa League or sneaking into the top 4. It should be a good game though.
So there we have it, your Quarter Final line-up. The element of no extra time is an interesting addition, as teams can’t park the bus and hope for a replay. They can hope for penalties, but can you park a bus for 120 minutes? I’m sure some will try. I’ll be back with another heavily padded review on Tuesday, enjoy the games!