FA Cup talking points: Onus on Wolves to reach Wembley | City chasing double Treble

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FA Cup talking points: Onus on Wolves to reach Wembley | City chasing double Treble

Onus on Wolves to reach Wembley

For many teams, the FA Cup is a welcome distraction from the pressures of the league season, an opportunity to rotate and play with a bit of freedom. It has not really worked out that way for Gary O’Neil’s Wolves – but that seems to have worked in their favour.

Having scrapped their way to a third-round replay with Brentford after securing a draw with 10 players in the initial tie, there was huge pressure to win the second match at Molineux given that a Black Country derby with West Brom awaited Wolves in the fourth round.

That match at the Hawthorns was a must-win for the supporters. And by the time they kicked off their fifth-round fixture at home to Brighton, it was already known that Championship side Coventry stood between Wolves and a Wembley semi-final.

Despite injuries to all three first-choice forwards, the expectation will be that O’Neil’s team find a way past the Sky Blues. They would finally be underdogs in the last four and could enjoy the occasion. Before that, there is another high-pressure occasion to negotiate.

If Wolves can manage that, it would continue their surprising success this season. Improbably given their fraught start that had many tipping them for the drop, they still have two routes into Europe – and are just two wins away from a first FA Cup final in 64 years.
Adam Bate

Can Coventry and Robins recreate their past FA Cup magic?

Image: Haji Wright will be a key attacker for Coventry at Wolves

A Coventry win at Molineux would make it the second time they have reached the FA Cup semi-finals, with the last time resulting in them going on to successfully lift the trophy in 1987.

The competition also holds a special place in the heart of Sky Blues manager, Mark Robins. He scored the goal that is widely regarded as the one which saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at Manchester United in 1990.

Discontent was growing amongst supporters, with banners reading ‘three years of excuses’ at Old Trafford in their defeat to Crystal Palace in the previous month. But it was Robins who nodded the only goal away at Nottingham Forest to seal victory.

United went on to lift the FA Cup that season, beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in a final replay. The rest, as we know it for Ferguson and the club, was history.
Ella-Esrene Frederick

Man City chasing the double treble

Kevin De Bruyne speaks with Pep Guardiola as he leaves the pitch and takes his seat on the Man City bench

Image: Kevin De Bruyne is unavailable but Manchester City will fancy their chances anyway

Pep Guardiola insists that it is virtually improbable and yet as the season reaches its climax, Manchester City are the favourites to retain the Premier League trophy, favourites to retain the Champions League, and, yes, favourites to lift the FA Cup once again.

This treble had only been achieved once before in the history of English football prior to last season’s feat but City are well placed to manage it in back-to-back seasons. Newcastle United are the quarter-final opponents in this FA Cup quarter-final at the Etihad Stadium.

That home draw feels significant because while Newcastle knocked City out of the Carabao Cup at St James’ Park in September and it needed a late goal from Oscar Bobb to win the league fixture there, Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in front of their own fans all season.

If there is one intriguing aspect for City, it will be the performance of Stefan Ortega. In his role as Ederson’s back-up goalkeeper over the past two seasons, the German has impressed – having supporters chant his name soon after his arrival. But this is different.

Injury to the Brazilian means that Ortega could have a key role to play in the closing stages of the campaign. He is a more than capable player with the ball at his feet so should not necessitate any change in style. But eyes will be on him during such an important period.

Ortega aside, with the international break to follow and having had a free week following the exertions against Liverpool last weekend, even an injury to Kevin De Bruyne is unlikely to prevent City from naming a very strong side. The double treble is on.
Adam Bate

Newcastle aiming to salvage success from this season

Anthony Gordon celebrates his goal for Newcastle

Image: Anthony Gordon and Newcastle have a huge FA Cup test at Man City

Eddie Howe joked that he almost drove off the road in shock when he heard on the radio Newcastle had been drawn away to Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals. The Magpies got the better of Pep Guardiola’s men earlier this season in the Carabao Cup but a fourth meeting of the season with City is far from ideal.

Especially away from home, where Newcastle are on a run of 18 league visits to City without success. They managed just one shot on target in a limp performance in August. But Newcastle’s players need to put it all on the line this Saturday. This has become a defining game for their season.

There is still the prospect of qualifying for the Europa League or Europa Conference League through their league position but a campaign which began with so much hope and excitement could end with something of a whimper if Newcastle’s FA Cup run doesn’t go beyond this weekend.

A return to Wembley is within reach – and to do that in back-to-back seasons would be a significant achievement for Howe, particularly given the injury issues he and his players have had to battle this term. But they couldn’t have a tougher task on their hands to make it there.
Peter Smith

Pochettino can’t afford to miss out on second shot at cup glory

Chelsea's head coach Mauricio Pochettino reacts on the sideline

Image: Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea are aiming to make up for Carabao Cup final disappointment

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t convincing but Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Leeds in the previous round of the FA Cup was celebrated enthusiastically by the home fans at Stamford Bridge. Part of that was down to the rivalry between the sides but perhaps more significantly, it was because the victory came just three days on from their extra-time Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool at Wembley. It kept Chelsea’s season alive.

The middle of the Premier League is a crowded place and with co-efficient calculations being made on a weekly basis, there is still the possibility Chelsea could secure European football for next season with their league finish. But silverware would give Mauricio Pochettino’s project a shot in the arm – and perhaps win him some welcome admiration from the Chelsea fans who, he admits, have been underwhelmed by his output so far.

His winless cup record in England weighs down his reputation but, just as in the Carabao Cup, Chelsea have been handed a favourable draw. Another trip to Wembley beckons. Chelsea can’t afford to miss out.
Peter Smith

Vardy to make most of a welcome FA Cup distraction for Leicester?

Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring Leicester City's second goal

Image: Jamie Vardy is in fine form for Leicester City

A welcome distraction? Leicester’s trip to Chelsea will surely be that given their alarming recent run of results which has threatened to derail what a month ago looked like being a procession to the Championship title. One win in five and three defeats in that stretch – including a galling late collapse at promotion rivals Leeds – has left Enzo Maresca’s Foxes reeling.

With Leeds and Ipswich on their tails in the second tier, Leicester will be hoping for a confidence-boosting upset at Stamford Bridge. Evergreen Jamie Vardy, with 10 goals in his last 11 appearances, could be their key weapon but the 37-year-old has just four goals against Chelsea, a team he has played against more times than any other in his career (21).

Can he and Leicester come up with something special this weekend? Regardless of form or standing, Vardy and this team should never be underestimated…
Peter Smith

Man Utd to seize silverware chance?

Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring the opening goal with a first-half penalty

Image: Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring the opening goal with a first-half penalty

Manchester United last won the FA Cup in 2016, Louis van Gaal plonking the trophy in front of him at the post-final press conference. It was not enough to keep him in a job, having missed out on qualification for the Champions League. But could it save Erik ten Hag?

It has been a difficult Premier League campaign for the club. A fifth-place finish is likely to be enough to secure a spot in Europe’s premier club competition next season, but even that appears beyond them. Out of Europe before Christmas, it all comes down to this.

Liverpool, of all teams, are the visitors to Old Trafford on Sunday and though they have bigger prizes to play for, it will be a tough examination for a United team whose frailties have never been too far from the surface. It will need a big performance to progress.

There are big-game players in the United group. This is the sort of occasion that they will hope Casemiro would relish. And how about Bruno Fernandes? One Carabao Cup is scant reward for his contributions in a United shirt. Can the captain seize the day?

Defeat would confirm a trophyless season and accelerate discussions about the direction of travel under Ten Hag. Victory would take them to Wembley and eliminate one of the biggest remaining stumbling blocks to reclaiming the FA Cup. Massive for Manchester United.
Adam Bate

Can Liverpool maintain Quadruple push at Theatre of Dreams?

Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag celebrates at the end the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium, in Manchester, England, Monday, Aug 22, 2022. In background is Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Image: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (right) makes his penultimate visit to Old Trafford on Sunday hoping to get one over on the Reds’ arch-rivals

Jurgen Klopp takes his Liverpool side to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon with the Reds in red-hot form following Thursday’s destruction of Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16, but against opponents who would love nothing better than to derail their bid for an unprecedented Quadruple.

This will be the Liverpool manager’s penultimate visit to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, with the Reds also scheduled to face United in the Premier League on April 7, but with some key players starting to return from injury, the visitors will be expected to field a strong-looking starting lineup this weekend.

Both Mohamed Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai proved their return to fitness after recent hamstring injuries by playing the entire game against Sparta at Anfield, although it will still be intriguing to see what side Klopp fields against United.

However, with Liverpool not playing again until they host Brighton and Hove Albion in the top flight after the international break on May 31, it would be a surprise were Klopp not to play his first-choice XI against their fierce rivals.

Either way, Klopp would love nothing better than to triumph one last time at Old Trafford, a ground he has at times struggled to get results at during his time in charge of Liverpool, before departing the club this summer.
Richard Morgan

FA Cup quarter-final draw in full

Wolves vs Coventry

Man Utd vs Liverpool

Chelsea vs Leicester

Man City vs Newcastle

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