It’s FA Cup weekend, meaning that there are only four Premier league games. But on the plus side there are four cracking FA Cup Quarter final ties to look forward to.
Everton v Sunderland
First up it’s Everton v Sunderland at Goodison Park on Saturday lunch time. It has the potential to be a great tie with two very evenly matched sides. Only goal difference separates the teams in the league with both having picked up 37 points from 28 games.
They are managed by two of the most respected bosses in the game. Martin O’Neill and David Moyes are often linked with top jobs when they become available but none of the real big clubs has taken a chance on either of them… yet.
O’Neill has worked wonders at Sunderland since taking over from Steve Bruce in December. He has taken them from the clutches of a relegation battle to the safety of mid table with an outside chance of a push for a Europa League spot if they finish the season well.
Moyes has just celebrated his 10th anniversary as Everton manager – a remarkable achievement in this day and age.
An FA Cup success could strengthen either boss’ credentials when the powers that be at Chelsea and possibly Tottenham start looking for a new manager in the close season.
Everton had a disappointing result on Tuesday, losing 3-0 in the Merseyside Derby. However, before that game their form had been pretty good, having beaten high flying Tottenham and Chelsea in recent weeks.
Sunderland have had a topsy turvey run of late – beating Liverpool 1-0 in their last game and winning 2-0 at home to Arsenal to get to the Quarter final. However they have also been thrashed 4-0 by West Brom and lost in the league against the Gunners.
Given that Everton have home advantage I predict a 2-0 victory for the Blues.
Tottenham v Bolton
Later in the day, Tottenham face Bolton at White Hart Lane in the 17.30 kick off.
Tottenham are clear favourites for this one. They are still third in the League while Bolton are just one point above the relegation zone.
Tottenham have been having a great season but have slipped up a little in recent weeks. They have lost three league matches in a row, being beaten by Arsenal, Manchester united and Everton, which saw their comfortable 10 point lead over Arsenal erode to just one point.
They also needed a replay against League One Stevenage to progress to the Quarter final.
Bolton were expecting to kick on this season after a decent start to Owen Coyle’s reign but it hasn’t happened and they find themselves in a relegation battle.
They won their last league game against QPR in controversial fashion when the officials didn’t award an opening goal to QPR defender, Clint Hill, when his header had clearly crossed the line. Bolton didn’t mind though, especially as they had lost their last four in the league.
So neither side has had great results of late although Tottenham did play well against United and Everton despite the defeats.
It could be a classic cup game with two teams who can forget about their league results and just go for it in a one off tie. I think Tottenham will almost certainly have too much for Bolton and expect them to win 3-1.
Chelsea v Leicester
Leicester City are the only non Premier League team still in the competition. They are away at Stamford Bridge in the 14.05 kick off on Sunday.
Big spending Leicester started the season as joint favourites for promotion with West Ham but results early on didn’t go their way and they parted company with manager Sven Goran Eriksson.
They currently sit in 11th place – 6 points off the play off places. A good run in the last 10 games could see them sneak in as the form team. They have won three and lost two of their last five games – one of their defeats coming against high flying Reading.
Chelsea have had a very poor season by their high standards. So poor that manager Andre Villas-Boas was sacked earlier this month. They lie fifth in the table, three points behind Arsenal in the race for a Champions League space.
However, since AVB got the chop, their results have improved dramatically, beating Birmingham in the cup, Stoke in the League and last night’s fabulous 4-1 AET triumph against Napoli to progress to the Champions League Quarter finals.
On the surface the squad seem happier but only time will tell how long that will last – we will see how they react when they lose.
Leicester could be a potential banana skin and I’m going for a 1-1 draw in this one, especially as Chelsea may not have fully recovered physically or mentally from last night’s 120-minute roller coaster.
Liverpool v Stoke
The final tie of the weekend sees Liverpool welcome Stoke to Anfield. It promises to be a good game that will round the weekend off nicely. Both sides have been inconsistent in recent weeks.
Steven Gerrard scored a hat trick on Tuesday as Liverpool won 3-0 at home to Everton in the Merseyside derby. That result stopped the rot of three successive league defeats to Manchester United, Arsenal and Sunderland.
They have already won the Carling Cup but they are 7th in the league, 10 points behind fourth placed Arsenal. They will be looking to add the FA cup to their trophy cabinet to end the season on a high after a disappointing league campaign.
Since going out of the Europa League to Valencia in February, Stoke have won two home league games against Swansea and Norwich and lost away at Chelsea, leaving them 13th in the Premier League.
They reached the final last season, and another good cup run would put the icing on the cake for Tony Pulis’ men who have had another very good season.
Liverpool are an unpredictable side. If they score early against Stoke it is likely that they will ease their way through to the semi finals. However their problem is that they are not deadly enough in front of goal, which is why they lost against Arsenal despite outplaying them.
I think Stoke will get a goal and frustrate Liverpool and the game will finish 1-1.