Shrews host Manchester United in round’s best draw
It’s the fifth round of the FA Cup this weekend, as the lowest-ranked side left in the competition, Shrewsbury Town, host Manchester United, while big guns Chelsea and Manchester City face off at Stamford Bridge.
Here is a comprehensive look into the weekend’s fixtures:
Arsenal v Hull
For most lower-division clubs, an away tie to Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup would be glamorous and exiting. But not for Hull City. The Tigers have met the Gunners in both of the last two seasons in this competition, losing the 2014 final 3-2, having led 2-0, before a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates in the third round, last season.
Both sides are enjoying their respective league campaigns, with the hosts third in the Premier League and maintaining a title challenge with unexpected league-leaders Leicester City and local rivals Tottenham Hotspur. While Hull are two points clear at the top of the Championship, having won four of their last six.
It is going to be a tough ask for Hull, and history favours Arsenal. But, with the Gunners reshuffling the pack this weekend, with their Champions League tie with Barcelona in midweek in mind, there could be a chance for the Tigers to capitalise. Although they themselves could rest some key names as they aim to keep their promotion charge on track.
David Ospina will start in place of first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, and new signing Mohamed Elneny is set for a start. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden are ineligible against their parent club, while loanee Nick Powell is set for his debut.
Gunners fans will be hoping Aaron Ramsey is in the starting XI, having scored in his last three starts against Hull, while Akpom will be a big miss, having netted a hat-trick against Bury for Hull in the previous round.
Danny Welbeck returned for the Gunners is stunning fashion last weekend, netting the winner against title rivals Leicester to give Arsenal the win, in his first competitive match since April last year. Abel Hernandez has also been impressive for Hull, netting 17 goals in 29 appearances this season.
It was way back in 1908 when Arsenal suffered their solitary defeat to the Tigers in the FA Cup, losing 4-1.
Reading v West Brom
It’s not the most attractive tie of the weekend, and both side’s would have potentially benefited from not having to play this fixture. However, the winner knows they are one stage away from the quarter-finals. Reading are 15th in the Championship, while West Brom are flirting with relegation in 14th. The Royals have won two of their last six matches, but West Brom have won just one of their last six in normal time, needing penalties to beat Peterborough in the last round of the FA Cup.
Reading aren’t in the greatest of form, but dispatched of Walsall 4-0 at home in the previous round and could settle for a replay at the Hawthorns. Tony Pulis’ Baggies have needed a replay in both the past two rounds to progress, and with their toughest opposition in the competition yet, up next, they may struggle once again, this time away from home.
Gareth McAuley (ankle), James Morrison (hamstring), Callum McManaman (ankle) are all out of action for West Brom, but they have loan signing Alex Pritchard available to them. Yann Kermorgant and George Evans are both cup-tied for Reading, while Matej Vydra and Danny Williams are both doubts for the hosts.
Although the Royals go into the tie as outsiders, they have the better record of the two, winning three of their six FA Cup encounters with West Brom. And, even better for the neutral, the two sides have never produced a goalless fixture in this competition when they’ve faced each other.
Saido Berahino is the one to watch, having scored half of his goal tally this season in the competition, netting three goals in three FA Cup games.
Reading and West Brom both reached the sixth round of the tournament last season, with the Royals beating Bradford 3-0 and the Baggies losing 2-0 to local rivals Aston Villa.
Watford v Leeds
Last season these two faced each other in the Championship but, with Watford now impressing in the Premier League, the Hornets will go into the tie with Leeds as favourites.
Leeds are currently 16th in the Championship but perhaps, with not much to play for during the latter period of the season, they may make the most of the FA Cup?
The Hornets beat Crystal Palace in the league at the weekend, having ended a recent slump in form at the turn of the year. Leeds have only won two of their last six matches, but did hold promotion-chasing Middlesbrough to a draw at the weekend.
Miguel Britos and Jose Manuel could return for Watford, while Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban are long-term absentees for the hosts. Juan Paredes, Adlene Guedioura and Ikechi Anya could be handed starts by Quique Sanchez Flores and the visitors could welcome back Gaetano Berardi, while Leeds striker Chris Wood remains a doubt.
It’s the first FA Cup encounter between the two clubs, but Watford will be keen to reach the sixth round for the first time since 2007, and Leeds haven’t gone that far since 2003.
Souleymane Doukara is main man to look out for in Leeds’ side, but it is Watford’s Odion Ighalo who will pose the biggest threat, with Flores set to field his strongest side. The Nigeria international has scored 15 goals so far this season, while his strike partner Troy Deeney is looking to get into double figures for the campaign.
Bournemouth v Everton
Neither of these two sides have lit up the Premier League this season, but the Cherries are doing a good job of securing their top-flight status for another season.
The Cherries and the Toffees have won three of their last six matches, but Everton come into the game on the back of a demoralising defeat to lowly West Brom at the weekend.
Everton’s main man at the back, John Stones, has returned from a hamstring injury, while Oumar Niasse is still awaiting his Toffees debut having undergone surgery on his wrist. The visitors are also without Muhamed Besic, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Bournemouth are set to make changes for this tie, as they look to rest key players in their bid for survival. Therefore, it could be a good afternoon for Everton to capitalise and to progress into the sixth round.
The two sides have only previously met once in the FA Cup, with Everton thrashing Bournemouth 5-0 back in 1937.
Should Romelu Lukaku start, he will be the man to watch having fired in 20 goals for Everton in a season they have under achieved. It wouldn’t be surprising if he moves on in the summer, with a number of top clubs monitoring his and Everton’s situation. And what better an opportunity to help the Toffees to silverware this season, than the FA Cup against opposition, on their day, they can beat.
The Cherries haven’t reached the sixth round since 1957.
Blackburn Rovers v West Ham
With West Ham currently seventh in the Premier League and Blackburn Rovers 18th in the Championship, there is no question who are favourites going into this tie. But, who knows? After all, this is what the FA Cup is about.
Rovers have won three of their last six matches and recorded a 3-0 win over Fulham at the weekend, while West Ham have gone on a recent slump of two wins in six.
Andy Carroll (aductor), James Tomkins (calf), Joey O’Brien (hamstring), Enner Valencia (ankle) and Diafra Sakho (thigh) are all sidelined for the Hammers, as they travel to Ewood Park. Emmanuel Emenike is set to start up front for the visitors, while Sam Byram is cup-tied, having featured for Leeds earlier in the season. But, on a positive not for West Ham, Manuel Lanzini returns from a hamstring injury.
Blackburn loanee Danny Graham is ineligible, while fellow Sunderland man Jordie Gomez can feature for Rovers.
The first time these two sides met, in a competitive match, was in the FA Cup, with Rovers winning 3-2 away from home and have met nine times in the competition since.
Michail Antonio is one to look out for this weekend, having joined the Hammers from Nottingham Forest during the summer and chipping in with four goals from out wide.
Rovers will be keen to do one better than they did last campaign, as they lost 1-0 at home to Liverpool, but the Hammers last reached the sixth round five years ago, so they too will be eager to progress following a not-so impressive period of success in cup.
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
It’s north London versus south London. And it is also Spurs against former striker Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togo international will be grabbing the pre-match headlines this weekend as his new club, Palace, head to White Hart Lane to reach the sixth round of the FA Cup for the first time in 21 years.
Spurs will be firm favourites as they go into the clash second in the league, having won five of their last six matches, drawing one and going well in Europe. Meanwhile, Palace have stumbled of late, losing four of their last six, winning once.
Although Tottenham’s loss of first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is a blow, it has been timed well as Mauricio Pochettino looks to make numerous changes for their FA Cup tie, during a hectic period for the club.
Michel Vorm will deputise for Lloris, while Clinton Njie and Jan Vertonghen (both knee) remain sidelined. And on a positive note for Palace, Yannick Bolasie is set to return after nine weeks out.
In terms of their head-to-head FA Cup record the two sides are level with two wins each and drawing once, last meeting 12 years ago when Spurs ran out 3-0 winners at home.
Harry Kane is being tipped to return to the starting line-up, along with Eric Dier, having been rested for the midweek trip to Italy in the Europa League. And following his quiet start to the season the England striker has come to life and shown the same form – scoring 19 goals this season – that earned him so many plaudits last campaign. Dele Alli has been equally as impressive this season, in his first Premier League campaign, having joined from then League One side MK Dons.
Spurs last reached the sixth round in 2012.
Chelsea v Manchester City
It is the tightest FA Cup tie to call this weekend, with the Blues’ upturn in form under Guus Hiddink and Manchester City fighting on all fronts in this competition, the League Cup (final), Champions League and, of course, the Premier League. Realistically, it’s Chelsea’s only real chance of silverware, with City keen to rest key players with the Champions League fixtures draining their resources.
Both sides have won three of their last six games, but City are in desperate need to turn their results around quick, having lost at home to fellow title challengers Leicester City and Tottenham in the past two weeks.
Hiddink is to field a strong side that wont include captain John Terry, who is out with a hamstring injury. Oscar, who has returned from a calf injury could start ahead of out-of-form Eden Hazard. Nemanja Matic returns following his suspension in Europe, while Kurt Zouma (knee) and Radamel Falcao (thigh) are long-term absentees for the Blues. Recent signing Alexandre Pato is lacking match fitness to be able to feature to for the Blues, while City could give game time to Bersant Celina, Cameron Humphreys and Angelino.
City boast the better head-to-head record in the FA Cup against Chelsea, winning four of their five ties. They most recently won 2-0 at the Etihad and 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in 2013.
Kelechi Iheanacho is the one to watch this weekend. The 19-year-old Nigerian has been sensational in his debut season for the Sky Blues, netting nine goals in 21 appearances.
Chelsea and City most recently reached the sixth round of the FA Cup in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Shrewsbury Town v Manchester United
Manchester United are unquestionably favourites going into this tie, or are they? The Red Devils are not clicking again this season under Louis Van Gaal, so an upset isn’t too unbelievable.
The Shrews have won three of their last six games, but have been inconsistent with their results of late. But form goes out the window when a big cup tie comes a lower league club’s way.
United are without David de Gea, who suffered a knee injury in the warm-up for their Europa League tie in midweek. Wayne Rooney (knee) Marouane Fellaini (muscle injury), Cameron Borthwick-Jackon (illness) and Matteo Darmian (shoulder) are all out, and youngster Donald Love is cup-tied.
Neither side have met before, for its a chance for the Shrews to getting a winning start against one of the world’s most famous football clubs.
Jesse Lingard will be the one to watch, the 23-year-old winger has scored four goals in 21 appearances this season and been the only bright and entertaining display of talent at Old Trafford this season.
It was 1979 the last time the Shrews made the sixth round, while United made the next stage of the tournament just last season – losing to eventual winners Arsenal.