Thursday, 15 March 2012

FA Cup Quarter Finals: Ones to watch


As we get closer to the end of the football season here in England, it also sees the cup competitions getting ever nearer to the final. We saw Liverpool take the first cup of the season with a narrow penalty shoot out win over Championship outfit Cardiff in the Carling Cup final last month. This weekend we see the quarter finals of the FA Cup take place and the opportunity for four teams to play at Wembley in the semi finals. All but one of the teams left in the competition are from the Premier League with Leicester City representing the Football League.

#1 Everton v Sunderland
After suffering Merseyside derby disappointment on Tuesday, Everton will want to bounce back and progress in this seasons FA Cup. A home tie will give them some advantage but will face a tough ask as they come up against a fellow Premier League team high on confidence. Sunderland have been in great form of recent under new manager Martin O'Neill. A draw away at rivals Newcastle and then a home win against Liverpool has seen the Black Cats rise up the league table to eighth. O'Neill's side have been in impressive form in this year's FA Cup with wins against Arsenal as well as beating high flying Championship side Middlesbrough. Striker Nicklas Bendtner has two goals in two games and with fellow forward Frazier Campbell returning to impressive form, the pair will cause the Everton back line a fair few problems. David Moyes's Everton have also shown decent form in the league with home wins against Tottenham and Man City which has seen them sit comfortably in the top half of the table. Scoring in his first game for the club, striker Nikica Jelavic will want to continue showing why he was so highly rated when at Rangers. Key players including Royston Drenthe and Leon Osman were rested against Liverpool mid week and will be keen to play an important part in taking their club to the new Wembley for the first time. 
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Sunderland

#2 Chelsea v Leicester
The only quarter final that doesn't see two Premier League sides against each other. Leicester are the only team left outside the top division and will want to cause a big upset this weekend. Having seen Birmingham City hold Chelsea in the last round of the cup, Leicester will take massive heart and believe they are capable of the same. The Championship side have had a topsy turvy season with the Midlands side currently sitting in eleventh place in the league. Strikers David Nugent and Jermaine Beckford have a combined goal total of 25 goals this season and have struck up an impressive partnership. After an impressive 3-1 triumph over rivals Birmingham in their last game, Leicester will be high in confidence going into their game at Chelsea. Since the departure of manager Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea have since regained belief that their season isn't finished just yet. An extra time victory over Napoli in the Champions League and a 1-0 home win over Stoke in the league, has seen the London team remain in two cup competitions and still in contention for fourth place. Front man Didier Drogba has been in terrific form of late scoring three goals in the last two games. The return of captain John Terry has sured up the defence and given the team a much needed boost going into a critical stage of the season for the club. 
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Leicester City

#3 Liverpool v Stoke City
These two Premier League sides will be meeting for the fourth time this season on Sunday afternoon. The two met each other last year in the Carling Cup which saw a Luis Suarez double take the Merseyside club through. But Stoke will go into this tie confident. In the league meeting at Anfield this season, Stoke came away with a well earned goalless draw as well as beating their opponents 1-0 in the league meeting at the Britannia last September. Liverpool had been on a three game losing streak going into the Merseyside game on Tuesday. But a wonderful hat trick from talisman Steven Gerrard saw the reds end their poor run. Kenny Dalglish's side have had a mixed season, drawing nine games at home, dropping points against teams they should be beating. Poor results of late has seen them drop to seventh in the league. However the side have had good runs in cup competitions this season. Carling Cup success against Cardiff last month saw the club win silverware for the first time in six years. This years FA Cup run has seen the side beat rivals Manchester United as well as convincing wins against lower opposition. Stoke City have continued with their love affair of the FA Cup this year with some impressive displays. Runners up in last years competition has spurred the side on to achieve similar success. The game against Liverpool will see the Staffordshire side face Premier League opposition for the first time in this years competition. Exit from the Europa League this year leaves the FA Cup the only distraction from Stoke's average Premier League display this year. But after taking four points from six in the league this year there is no reason why The Potters can't pull of a potential shock. 
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Stoke City

#4 Tottenham Hotspur v Bolton Wanderers 
It has been 21 years since Spurs last won the FA Cup and a quarter final tie at home to fellow Premier League side Bolton, offers them a chance to inch further to a final at Wembley. Playing at home, Spurs are favourites to win the game but after reaching the semi final of the competition last season, Bolton will be no walkovers. Poor performances of late from Spurs, has seen North London rivals Arsenal come within two points of them. After being potential title contenders, Harry Redknapp's side look set for a battle for a Champions League place. Striker Jermaine Defoe looks set to miss out on a starting place on Saturday with fellow forwards Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor set to continue their impressive partnership. Rafael Van Der Vaart has missed a lot of this season through injury but also looks likely to come back into the side that hasn't found scoring goals an issue this year. Spurs needed a replay in the last round to overcome League 1 side Stevenage and will not want another one interrupting their charge for a top four place. Owen Coyle's Bolton were thumped 5-0 in last years semi final against Stoke at Wembley. With another opportunity to play at Wembley in front of them, Bolton will go into Saturday's game knowing they have every chance to progress. Wanderers have struggled to find the net this season with Ivan Klasnic being their top goalscorer with only eight league goals to his name. The loan signing of Arsenal youngster Ryo Miyaichi has given Bolton some much needed pace. Although only 19 years old, Miyaichi showed what quality he has with a superbly taken goal in the last round at Millwall. A 3-0 defeat to Spurs this season at the Lane will not give fans great hope but with Spurs struggling for some form there's every chance Bolton can progress.
Prediction: Spurs 3-1 Bolton



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