The congested English football season rears its head again for the top teams fighting on both European and domestic fronts with the FA Cup Fifth Round taking place this weekend.
Arsenal v Hull City
The Saturday lunchtime kickoff sees a replay of the 2014 final as Arsenal take on Hull City. Arsene Wegner will have one eye on his team’s Champions League fixture next Tuesday against Barcelona when considering his selection. He may well look to start Danny Welbeck after his return to fitness and comeback against Premier League leaders Leicester City. His last minute winner has certainly proved that he hasn’t lost his goal scoring touch and that he could be a real asset to the team in the run in to the end of the season.
Welbeck aside you would imagine that Wenger will rest his key players and give players such as Mohamed Elneny a run out in what should be a straight forward win for the Gunners. Steve Bruce will try to ensure though that his side continue their good run as they have won four of their last five games away from home and have only conceded two goals in their last eight matches in all competitions.
Whilst Bruce won’t be able to call upon Chuba Akpom who scored a hat-trick in the previous round as he is ineligible to play against his parent club he will give Nick Powell who is on loan from Manchester United his debut.
On Powell Bruce says “He will have a big part to play in the coming weeks. I’ve told him that. He’s versatile and can play as a striker or as a midfielder and I’m sure he can give us that bit of impetus.”
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace
Sunday sees two all Premier League clashes as Tottenham Hotspur take on Crystal Palace and Chelsea face Manchester City.
High flying Spurs will go into the 5th round full of confidence and with the strength and depth in their squad they should feel no hangovers from their Europa League exploits. They are riding the crest of a wave with Mauricio Pochettino in charge and the likes of Lloris, Alderweireld, Dier, Alli and Kane all in outstanding form.
Their opponents Palace seem to be floundering after a solid start to the season. They have gone 9 league games without a win and have only managed to score 4 goals in those fixtures. They will be pinning their hopes on Spurs outcast Emanuel Adebayor wanting to make his mark against his former club to at the very least force a replay.
Chelsea v Manchester City
Chelsea appear to be a totally different side since Guss Hiddink took over from “The Special One”. They are currently on an unbeaten run of 11 games domestically and Fabregas and Costa playing like they are new signings. Hiddink does have a few selection headaches though. Chelsea captain John Terry is an injury doubt after injuring his hamstring in Tuesday’s fixture against Paris St-Germain. With Kurt Zouma being ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee inury earlier this month there will have to be some rejigging of the back four.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will be wanting to make a statement with his impending departure and his replacement already being named. Although they have lost their last two games and have to make the journey to Ukraine to play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday they will certainly look to get the win and try to continue the push for silverware this season.
Shrewsbury Town v Manchester United
To round off the FA Cup weekend Shrewsbury Town take on Manchester United on Monday night. These games are what dreams are made of and are what make the FA Cup the competition it is.
The league one side will look at the form of Louis van Gaal’s side and won’t be as daunted as they should be of a Premier League side. With talks this week of abolishing the tradition replays Micky Mellon will be hoping that they can continue their FA Cup aspirations by taking the big boys back to Old Trafford for the financial pay day which is a lifeline for clubs such as Shrewsbury.
Whilst things have been going from bad to worse for van Gaal this season with the latest blow of Wayne Rooney being out with injury for 6 weeks he will be hoping that he can stop the rot on Monday. Whilst everyone loves a fairytale you would imagine that Man Utd will flex their Premier League muscles and make light work of their League One opponents so they can look forward to the next leg of their Europa League Tie against FC Midtjylland.