FA Cup Bringing Together Heavyweights in 5th Round
Mid February will see a return of England’s famous FA Cup, which pits together all the teams in the English leagues from top to bottom, bringing about strange matches. For example, last weekend saw a match between Premier League leaders Arsenal and League 1 side Coventry City (2 leagues below the top). Arsenal won handedly 4-0. But in the 5th round we have now just 16 teams remaining, and many of the Premier League clubs will be forced into facing each other. 2 heavyweight clashes should bring intrigue and intense drama to the cup!
Arsenal vs. Liverpool is always a hotly contested, competitive matchup. Both famous clubs have been struggling for several years. Liverpool hasn’t played in the UEFA Champions League in nearly 5 seasons. Arsenal hasn’t won a trophy in almost 10 years. But yet these clubs have a lot of pride and can compete with the best on their day. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is arguably the best goal-scorer in the world right now, and Arsenal’s midfield of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla is up there with the likes of Barcelona! This should surely be a fantastic match, but I give the edge to the Gunners since they will be playing from the warm confines of their home ground, the Emirates Stadium. However, for Arsenal the timing of this draw couldn’t be worse. They’ll have just played Manchester United and will be looking ahead to a match with Bayern Munich. Fortunately this gauntlet of matches are all at home, but their focus may just be elsewhere, leaving this match wide open…
The other mouthwatering draw of the FA Cup 5th round sees Chelsea travel up to Manchester City. These are the two successful big-spending clubs of the moment, and surely will be prioritizing the Premier League over the FA Cup. Nevertheless, this tournament will be a great way to placate fans if those league endeavors fail. This will be a match in which both clubs go for it, though the Etihad stadium in Manchester has become something of a fortress. They have won all 11 of their home league matches, including score lines of 6-3 over Arsenal, 4-1 over Manchester United, and 6-0 over Tottenham. However, if there is any team that could possibly come into their stadium and force a draw, it would be a squad led by Jose Mourinho. I feel his tactics will be to defend ruthlessly, force a draw, and secure the victory back home at Stamford Bridge in a replay. But with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, and Alvaro Negredo coming at them in waves, this is a mighty tall order. I think Manchester City will make the breakthrough and be on their way.
One thing to realize for these top clubs is that after this tricky fixture, there will only be 2 of the supposed heavyweight British clubs left in the FA Cup. Several sub-league teams still remain like Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Wigan Athletic, and Brighton. While the beauty and drama of the FA Cup means that upsets can happen at any time, one would have to favor the odds that whoever wins in these two key matchups have a great shot at meeting in the final and lifting the cup! Who will be in Wembley Stadium at the season’s end hoisting the FA Cup in celebratory glory to their fans in May? I’d place my bet on Arsenal, but of course I am a Gooner, so I’m clearly a bit biased! Let the magic of the FA Cup continue!