Everton – West Bromwich Albion
This is a strange match. One the face of it, Koeman’s side should be able to win without breaking sweat considering West Brom’s abysmal recent away form. However, Pulis’ side are still somehow in contention for a European place – which makes this a six-pointer against direct rivals and a match the Capped One needs to win to justify Albion’s ascendancy as more than just a statistical quirk. Any other time of the season, this would be must-miss match, but it looks like the game of the weekend this matchday. It doesn’t hurt that five of the top six are playing in the FA Cup either.
Hull City – Swansea City
The Hull City revolution comes up against the Swansea revolution, with this match deciding once and for all who are better – foreign managers who worked all over Europe, or British managers who have worked all over Europe? In all seriousness, Clement looks like England’s final hope for a decent manager with Howe and Dyche doing their best to never win away from home again. Too bad he’s up against one of the more accomplished managers in the league. And, yes, titles in Portugal and Greece count for more than a Championship promotion.
Bournemouth – West Ham United
The Olympic Stadium must have been in uproar recently over comments made by former favourite Dimitri Payet, about West Ham’s lack of ambition. Or, well, whatever counts as uproar in the increasingly Emirates-lite atmosphere being created in the new arena. However, luckily for Slaven Bilic, the Hammers are away from home this weekend, against an increasingly floundering Bournemouth. Maybe Eddie Howe isn’t the saviour after all. Who knew?
Liverpool – Burnley
I’ve been thinking of a way to make this match-up entertaining, but with Liverpool over their mini-crisis and Burnley resuming normal service with an away loss at Swansea, this may be the most predictable game of the season. Instead, I recommend ignoring this fixture altogether and waiting for the cup quarterfinal at Stamford Bridge. I can’t believe I just recommended a Mourinho derby for on-pitch entertainment. Eurgh.
FA Cup Quarter Finals
Middlesbrough – Manchester City
I could talk about statistics, Guardiola’s recent gong for Manager of the Month (which I’m sure Mourinho was thrilled about), or even Boro’s hopeless form. Instead, I’m going to appeal to the “spirit of the cup.” Boro are going to win this – probably through a deflected own goal that barely crosses the line – just to make sure that the pundits have at least one team to be patronising about in the next round.
Arsenal – Lincoln City
I mean, this has to be the most predictable fixture for Arsenal Football Club right? At home, against non-league opposition, after their annual battering by Bayern Munich. Arsenal will ease past the Imps, Wenger will be crowned the rightful heir to his own throne once again, the Gunners will step it up with nothing left to play for and they’ll finish fourth with Wenger vindicated (in his own eyes, at least). Then again, they could lose, and Le Professor could be without a job for the first time in decades by Monday morning.
Tottenham Hotspur – Millwall
2nd in the Premier League versus 6th in League One – this has to be a complete walkover. Millwall will be lucky to keep it down to a cricket score, while my bet of the weekend is yet another Kane hat trick. I mean, it’s not as if Janssen is going to score unless there’s another penalty. Nevertheless, be prepared for a series of anti-Semitic chants once Millwall start losing, followed by righteous tabloid indignation and protests of #NotAllFans. Honestly, that would be my bet of the weekend if anyone were offering.
Chelsea – Manchester United
Mourinho has been surprisingly civil about this fixture, considering that it’s being played away from home, on a Monday, between Europa League fixtures. No doubt this level of calm will continue when Mkhitaryan gets injured at Stamford Bridge as United are demolished, while Ibrahimovic declares that he won’t stay once United are knocked out by Rostov in midweek. After all, if there’s one thing you can expect from the Portuguese manager, it’s class.