The Emirates FA Cup

It hasn’t been a vintage FA Cup year so far, with no non-league sides reaching the third round really setting the tone for what was to follow. Sure, Nottingham Forest will look back fondly on their 3rd round win over Arsenal and you try telling Coventry their win over Stoke wasn’t a classic FA Cup tie, but a quick glance at the 5th round draw doesn’t exactly fill you up with FA Cup joy. There are 8 ties, with each one including at least one Premier League team and two all Premier League clashes. We might have to dig a little deeper to find our stories for this one…

The action begins on Friday night, with Chelsea hosting Hull. The very fact this has made it to TV sums it up really. The FA Cup is really all Chelsea have unless they are going to really upset the form book in the Champions League, and they’ve been handed a customary easy home tie to get them into the last 8. Seriously, if I wasn’t so lazy I would research Chelsea’s cup ties in the Abramovich era and come at you with statistics, but in the absence of any facts you’ll just have to take my moaning at face value and assume I am right. Chelsea will win, probably comfortably. Another game on Friday night sees Leicester host Sheffield United. I’ll stand by what I said in the 4th round preview – Leicester should throw the kitchen sink at this competition. They have a great chance to reach the last 8 here and I fully expect them to, as Sheffield United’s league form has been patchy of late and they’ll probably be keen to put their eggs in that basket.

Into Saturday then and the early TV game is Sheffield Wednesday against Swansea. It’s Championship vs Premier League, which carries some interest from a shocks point of view, but I guess BT are really hoping the whole ‘Carvalhal back at Sheff Wed’ thing blows up. In reality, it won’t. Swansea have been great since he took over and Sheff Wed have been woeful since he left, though they did win on Tuesday so maybe they’ve turned the corner. Swansea’s form is unbelievable though and I expect they’ll win. After the season they’ve had they are two games away from Wembley and who knows? A win here followed by a decent draw and anything is possible.

There are just two games at 3pm on Saturday, making this a very grim Saturday indeed, especially as one of those games is Brighton vs Coventry. It’s harsh on Coventry, having missed out on the TV money for their win against Stoke, to then go to MK Dons and win and be rewarded with a trip to Brighton is a huge shame. Brighton though must be loving it. They’re involved in the relegation dogfight but Hughton’s group of lads are in decent form, so I think they’ll win. No shock here. Speaking of relegation fights, West Brom vs Southampton is a game where I think both managers would lose if they could. The curious management of Alan Pardew took another weird turn this week by taking his players abroad after their defeat at Chelsea on Monday night and returning in time to host Southampton here. Daniel Sturridge is injured, to the surprise of nobody, and Southampton won this exact fixture a few weeks ago. Southampton does not seem the happiest club in the world at the moment, with rumblings of discontent aimed at Mauricio Pellegrino during their home loss to Liverpool last weekend but that seems small fry compared to West Brom’s problems, as they sit bottom of the league, without their new striker and having sack the chairman this week. Will Pardew be next out the door?

Saturday teatime is where we’ll find our next televised fixture, as Man Utd travel to Huddersfield Town. The Terriers won this fixture earlier in the season but can they do it again? Their recent form has been poor but they scored a vital and impressive 4-1 win over Bournemouth last weekend, will that restore enough form to see them to a win here? Man Utd have been muddling along for a while now and the defeat at Newcastle was a surprise, though more of a concern will be how poor the likes of Paul Pogba were. Maybe Mourinho will shuffle his pack here ahead of their Champions League return next week but several players owe a performance and I think they’ll bounce back here. David Wagner hasn’t really played a full strength team so far in the competition but now is a good time to stop that trend and have a go, but he probably feels their league predicament prevents them from doing so.

You have to wait until 4pm on Sunday for your next dose of FA Cup medicine, with the action coming from Spotland at 4pm as Rochdale host Spurs. This is the most intriguing clash of the round for me, or at least it was when Rochdale’s pitch resembled a potato field a few weeks ago. The pitch has been re-laid now, which can present it’s own challenges, but it’s still a League One team up against Premier League – Champions League – opposition. With Spurs coming off a hard-fought draw in Turin I can’t imagine them going full strength here but they have such strength in depth nowadays that probably means we’ll see Lucas Moura and Son, among others, but I still think Spurs will win.

The final action of the 5th round will come at the DW Stadium where we’ll find Wigan vs Man City in a repeat of the 2013 final. Wigan are now two divisions lower than they were that day, whilst Man City are a Pep richer and playing football from another planet. Wigan are looking good for promotion from League One, whilst Man City have pretty much won the Premier League, but Man City could be up against just about anyone and I’d say they are favourites. Will they lose at Wigan? I’d say no.

I can’t even bring myself to predict a single shock result, which I think (hope) is more representative of how poor the draw is rather than my lack of imagination. Football is full of surprises though, if it was this easy to predict results my betting slip would be full of green rather than red. All we can do is sit back and watch and hope it is more interesting than it looks on paper. See you for the Quarter Finals.