Thursday, 16 February 2012

FA Cup Fifth Round: Ones to watch

League action takes a break this weekend as we see the fifth round of the FA Cup take centre stage. With some big results in the last round, there are only 16 sides left in the competition to become winners of this historical competition.

#1 Chelsea v Birmingham City
City Striker Marlon King has scored
11 goals for the blues this season
Chelsea have a big week ahead of them especially if they are to have anywhere near a successful season. A home tie against Birmingham who are currently in unstoppable form in the FA Cup is followed by the first leg tie away at Italian side Napoli. Chelsea are currently having an odd patch of results and are nowhere near showing the real quality the side possess. After throwing away a three goal lead at home to Manchester United two weeks ago, Chelsea lost to Everton in an with an awful performance. Pressure is mounting on Chelsea boss Villas-Boas and anything but two cup wins this week will further pressure the Portuguese man. Strikers Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou will still not be available for the lunchtime clash on Saturday so responsibility will continue on striker Fernando Torres to end his four month goal drought. Championship club Birmingham City are in excellent form at the moment and sit on the play off's and are currently 13 games unbeaten in all competitions. The Midlands side will have nothing to lose and after beating rivals Wolves in the last round, Chris Hughton's side will go into this clash with every hope of progressing.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Birmingham City

#2 Crawley Town v Stoke City
Matt Tubbs celebrates his winner for
Crawley against Hull in the last round
League 2 side Crawley are the lowest side left in the competition and they will not want their journey to end as they come up against Premier League side Stoke City. Crawley have beaten Championship sides Bristol City and Hull City in their campaign so far and have been rewarded with a big home tie against a Premier League side. Stoke have not been in the best form of recent and will be taking on the West Sussex side after their Europa League clash at home to Valencia. Tony Pulis will look to rest big stars after their efforts against the Spanish side and give the rest of the squad a chance to play. The Staffordshire club have not won a Premier League game since the 2-1 away game at Blackburn at the beginning of the year and will want to carry on their involvement in the cup. For Crawley it is the biggest home tie they face in the club's history and with the television cameras present, the League 2 side will want to show viewers their capabilities. Star man and striker Matt Tubbs was the key man for their side but after Tubbs had bigger ambitions and moved to Bournemouth, Crawley will rely on striker Tyrone Barnett who has netted an impressive 15 goals in all competitions this season. 
Prediction: Crawley Town 1-2 Stoke City

3# Stevenage v Tottenham Hotspur
Louis Saha scores his first Spurs goal
against Newcastle at the weekend
Alongside the Crawley game against Stoke, this fixture stands out as well. League one side Stevenage have reached the fifth round for the first time in the clubs history and take on high flying Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs are currently third in the league chasing both Manchester clubs in a bid to win the Premier League title. Stevenage sit in the play off's of League one after gaining promotion from League two last season. New manager Gary Smith took the reigns after former manager Graham Westley went to fellow League one side Preston last month. Since taking over the club, Smith saw his side beat Notts County ion the fourth round of the cup and then beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 away from home. The Hertfordshire club beat Newcastle United at home in the third round last season so for the fans there is no reason why the League one side can't achieve a similar result this weekend. Harry Redknapp's Spurs come to Stevenage after thumping Newcastle United 5-0 at home last Saturday evening. Redknapp will more than likely rest his bigger stars with the North London derby in mind a week later. The likes of Bale, Adebayor and Luka Modric will sit on the bench allowing the younger stars of Spurs a run out and  a chance to shine. Striker Louis Saha is more than likely going to play a part. Two goals in the victory at the weekend for the Frenchman will give him a much needed confidence boost after only scoring two goals for former club Everton this season. With the television cameras present at the game on Sunday, Stevenage will want to show the football world just how good they are. 
Prediction: Stevenage 0-3  Tottenham

#4 Liverpool v Brighton
Kuyt scores Liverpool's second in
the 2-1 win over Brighton last year
For the second time this season, Liverpool and Brighton play each other, this time in the FA Cup. The two played against each other in the third round of the Carling Cup at Brighton last September with the Merseyside club winning 2-1 thanks to goals from strikers Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt. With a Carling Cup final to look forward to in a week, Liverpool will want to book themselves at Wembley again for a second time this season in the FA Cup. A 2-1 victory at Anfield three weeks ago against rivals Manchester United in the fourth round, Liverpool will want to continue their form in the competition this season with victory over the Championship club. Kenny Dalglish has put out strong teams in both of their FA cup games this year and the game on Sunday will be no different. Bad boy Luis Suarez may set to start on his third game back from his 8 game ban. Craig Bellamy is the clubs top goalscorer this season and alongside fellow forward Dirk Kuyt, the pair have scored critical goals in cup games this season. Dutch striker Kuyt has come under some criticism this season due to lack of goals but two goals in his last four games for the club have shown he still has his predator instinct. Championship side Brighton started the season with a bang and went unbeaten in their first six league games. Since then form has dipped for the club and for striker Craig Mackail Smith as well. The Scotsman had not scored in his previous twelve games before netting in the 2-1 away win at Leeds last week. They sit ninth in the table at the moment only two points from a play off place and a cup game at Anfield will be a nice break from the league and be sure to be a grand day out for the travelling fans. Having disposed of Newcastle United in the last round of the cup, the Seagulls will go into the game knowing that if they perform to similar standards anything is possible.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Brighton

Other fifth round ties:
Everton v Blackpool (Prediction: 2-1)
Norwich City v Leicester City (Prediction: 3-2)
Millwall v Bolton Wanderers (Prediction: 1-1)
Sunderland v Arsenal (Prediction: 1-1)

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