The FA Cup is upon this weekend and there are a lot of tasty ties for football fans to get their teeth into this weekend. We have decided to review three of this weekend’s televised games as we begin a weekend filled to the brim with live football. You had better tell the other half this weekend is dedicated to football because you will not want to miss a second of this weekend’s action. The question on everyone’s lips is whether there will be an upset or not – this is the cup and we know that anything could happen. Let’s take a look at three games that are all about the managers…place your bets:
Chelsea vs. Birmingham Saturday 12.30pm Kick Off Live on ESPN
There is no doubt that the pressure is on Chelsea of late, gaffer Andre Villas Boas is starting to lose the confidence of some players and also some sections of the Chelsea crowd. The clubs recent loss to Everton was a hammer blow on the back of draws with both Manchester United, after being 3-0 up, and the away draw with Swansea. A home game could be exactly what they need if they win, but if they don’t then negativity will again engulf Stamford Bridge.
The fortunes of Birmingham this season are somewhat different; they have enjoyed their time in the Europa League and are currently occupying fifth spot in the Championship after a 13-game unbeaten run. Promotion is a realistic possibility for Birmingham and victory against Chelsea would be a great feather in their cap, as they would claim their second Premier League scalp of the FA Cup.
Chelsea Team News: John Terry is unlikely to play, whilst Ashley Cole is doubtful. Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are again available after the African Cup of Nations.
Birmingham Team News: Strikers Marlon King and Nikola Zigic are both injured and so is midfielder Guirane N’Daw.
Prediction: Even though the storm clouds are gathering over AVB and Stamford Bridge, the Drog is back and Chelsea should be too much. Chelsea Win.
Sunderland vs. Arsenal Saturday 5.15pm Kick Off Live on ITV 1
Martin O’Neill’s record since taking the reins at Sunderland has been nothing short of sensational. He has transformed a team low on confidence, in to a side who will give anyone a run for their money on their day. There hasn’t been any influx of players to radically change the team’s fortunes; it is purely down to a change in the team’s mentality and a new sense of optimism that Martin O’Neill has given his troops. After only two losses in the last twelve, one of which was to Arsenal, the team will be hungry to get back to winning ways.
It hasn’t been the best of weeks for Arsenal, the 4-0 beating at the hands of AC Milan has bought the pessimists back out at the club, but Arsenal’s form up until then has been good. The team will be buoyed by the fact they beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light just last weekend, even if they only won the fixture in the dying moments of the gamer. The only real negative coming in to this tie is more injuries to defenders which will only stretch the squad further. Arsene Wenger will be looking for a response from his players after the poor performance midweek, the question is will he get it or just a hangover performance.
Sunderland Team News: Lee Cattermole is back from Injury, but Nicklas Bendtner is ineligible, whilst David Vaughan, Wes Brown and Titus Bramble are injured.
Arsenal Team News: Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny picked up injuries midweek and are out along with Jenkinson, Andres Santos, Diaby and Wilshere. Gervinho returns after African Nations duty.
Prediction: Sunderland are in with more than a chance, especially after Arsenal’s midweek result….may as well stick my neck out, Sunderland win.
Stevenage vs. Tottenham Sunday 2pm Kick Off Live on ITV1
WARNING Giant Killing alert! Stevenage are no strangers to knocking a Premier League side out of the cup on home turf after they famously knocked out Newcastle in last year’s competition. New Stevenage manager Gary Smith is plotting a repeat performance since recently taking top job at The Boro. Stevenage are doing well in the league, currently sitting in sixth place in League One following 5 wins and 1 draw in the last 6 games, which all started in the previous round with a narrow win of Championship side Reading. Gary Smith has longed to be involved in the FA Cup and here is a big chance to make his mark on the competition.
Tottenham come in to this game out of every other cup competition and Harry Redknapp has told his players the FA Cup is important and that they should not under estimate their lower league opposition. Despite the uncertainity surrounding Harry Redknapp’s long term future at the club, form is not a problem for Spurs; they battered Newcastle in their last outing and have only lost once in their last 14 games. Redknapp will see a win as essential to keep the clubs cup run going and also continue momentum in to back-to-back games against Arsenal and Manchester United. The reward on offer is a place in the cup Quarter-Final and this is not something Spurs will want to miss out on.
Stevenage Team News: Striker Craig Reid is back in contention after recovering from an injury.
Tottenham Team News: Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, Sandro and Younes Kaboul could all feature. Rafael van der Vaart is the main injury concern for Spurs.
Prediction: It was nice whilst it last for Stevenage fans…but Spurs will have a bit too much. Spurs Win.