West Ham United – Everton
It’s been a tough season for Slaven Bilic. After conquering the hearts and minds of the West Ham faithful with some high-flying performances last year, the Hammers have been in all but freefall this season. If it weren’t for the awful wretchedness of teams like Sunderland and Boro, Bilic’s men would probably have been in the midst of a relegation battle. However, he needn’t worry about his position at the club any longer, after one of the Premier League’s most recognisable legends backed him this week. After all, when has Steven Gerrard been wrong about anything? *cough*Joe Cole is the new Messi*cough*. That might not be as subtle as it sounded in my head.
Hull City – Watford
Ah, the Tigers versus the Hornets. That actually sounds like a more exciting matchup than this one. I think I’m starting to understand the appeal of the old Roman Gladiatorial contests. Can you imagine Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo teaming up against Jakupovic while Marco Silva yells instructions atop a tiger behind him? I might have strayed into some weird territory with this one. Anyway, Hull are getting better, Watford are practically on holiday, yada yada yada, this should be a simple one for Paul Merson’s favourite manager. (Bonus points for anyone who caught the Seinfeld reference – go buy yourself an ice cream)
Swansea City – Stoke City
Paul Clement really is playing a dangerous game isn’t he? After coming in and seemingly sorting out the mess all those foreigns had made at Swansea, he’s now dragging the Swans down himself. Maybe, just maybe, being a good assistant manager and taking the top job require different skills? Yes, I know that he’s British, and therefore is the literal embodiment of the sport, but maybe we’ve reached an era where that’s not enough? Unthinkable, I know, but England haven’t really been at the pinnacle of the sport for half a century. Either way, Craig Shakespeare should probably be paying attention to what happens in Wales before signing that inevitable contract offer that’s going to be coming his way.
Bournemouth – Middlesbrough
After a wretched start to the year, Eddie Howe seems to have finally found his rhythm again as Bournemouth strive to establish themselves as the next great middling side in the Premier League. What they would give to emulate Stoke City or Crystal Palace or West Brom or…well, pretty much any side managed by the Capped One. Luckily for England’s next great hope, he should be able to keep his job for at least another week as Boro have managed to replace defensive stodginess and pointless attacking under Karanka with defensive uselessness and pointless attacking under Agnew.
Burnley – Manchester United
A lot of people were left surprised, and quite baffled, by Theresa May’s apparent volte-face this week when she announced a snap election after months of promising to wait for three years. But, considering what she sees in the newspaper every weekend, can you really blame her? After all, Mourinho has gone from laughing at Benitez’s Europa League victory to practically begging for a shot at the trophy this season, and no one seems to have blinked an eye. In fact, he’s even managed to increase his media presence! After all, isn’t that what all politicians want? More attention? What? That match? Oh, alright. Without Ibra sticking the place up, Martial and Rashford should have a field day at Turf Moor.
Liverpool – Crystal Palace
Even by their standards, Liverpool fans have become quite smug this season. With the Kloppian experiment finally getting some traction, the Reds are flying high and are unexpectedly favourites for a Champions League spot. Klopp has even come out and said that they could’ve challenged for the title if they had avoided injuries. Apparently, Europe-less weeks wasn’t enough of an advantage. Liverpool have even managed to break their curse or dropping points against the league minnows recently, and their match against Palace shouldn’t be any trouble. After all, it’s not like Crystal Palace have ever derailed Liverpool’s lofty goals late in the season.
FA Cup Extras!
Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur
This is the big one, isn’t it? First and second in the league, both in fairly tremendous form, providing us all with a little teaser of their title tussle over the next few weeks. And with Chelsea imploding against Manchester United last weekend, many are wondering if a Spurs victory in the cup could completely derail Conte’s team. A Tottenham title would be greeted almost universally – apart from the Arsenal fans who are ranting their way to a 7th place finish and two more years of Wenger. Then again, Conte does have experience in tight league battles, with his Juventus side among the best in the world at closing out the season. But, this is England. There’s no way Chelsea could go on a 6-match winning streak to win the league and cup double.
Arsenal – Manchester City
Ah, the other face of the tournament. If you had provided us with the semifinal lineup at the start of the season, I doubt anyone would’ve believed that this would be widely considered the tie of the irrelevance and probable loss. After all, this is Guardiola and Guardiola-lite, the big spenders versus all-time record holders of the FA Cup. But, as the season has unfolded, the battle of the ascetics has descended into a struggle to be the biggest farce. Its hard to tell who is winning with Wenger’s side definitely out of next season’s Champions League, while City still have a (diminishing) shot at the top four – but spent heavily and were favourites for the title. Either way, I’m not sure anyone really cares.