Saturday, February 16, 2013

''IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FA CUP'' by David Obasogie

The Barclays Premier League take a pause this weekend as the oldest club cup competition takes centre stage and we would zero in on some of the key fixtures therein..

In the previous round, we saw a lot of upsets as powerhouse Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa were dumped out by lower league clubs.

Norwich City though against Luton Town became the first top-flight side in 24 years to lose to a minor league club.

A full list of the FA Cup matches to expect this weekend;
16 Feb 2013;
>Luton vs Millwall
Kenilworth Road
>Milton Keynes Dons vs Barnsley
>Arsenal vs Blackburn
Emirates Stadium
>Oldham vs Everton
Boundary Park

17 Feb 2013
>Chelsea vs Brentford
Stamford Bridge
>Man City vs Leeds
Etihad Stadium
>Huddersfield vs Wigan
John Smith's Stadium

18 Feb 2013
>Man Utd vs Reading
Old Trafford

27 Feb 2013
>Middlesbrough vs Brentford/Chelsea
The Riverside Stadium

>>Chelsea vs Brentford:

The Blues will be aiming to get the better of the Bees at the second time of asking. Rafael Benitez will welcome back four players into his squad for Sunday's game against Brentford at Stamford Bridge, and promises a strong line-up as they pursue a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

Only once in 14 years of the tournament have the Blues not contested the fifth round.
Chelsea will be welcoming Nigeria duo of John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses from the African Cup of Nations full of confident as they won the competition.

The last lower league team to beat Chelsea in a replay in this competition were Millwall in 1995, 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw on the Fulham Road.

Chelsea are unbeaten in 25 FA Cup matches (excluding penalty shoot-outs). Their last defeat in the competition was at Barnsley five years ago in March 2008.

It will be a fantastic occasion for Brentford's fans who fill the Shed End on Sunday for both teams first competitive meeting at Stamford Bridge for over 66 years. Brentford players earned a mid-season break in Dubai to recharge the batteries after pushing the Blues all the way.

Since then they have lost to Yeovil, drawn with Bury and beaten Stevenage to stand sixth in League One, well within a tilt at the play-offs. Chelsea though have drawn at Reading, lost at Newcastle and beaten Wigan and Sparta Prague.

There has to be a victor on Sunday. If the scores are level after 90 minutes, 30 minutes extra time will be played. If there is still no winner the tie will be decided on penalties.

This is the only tie left over from the fourth round, everyone else in cup action this weekend will play a fifth-round tie.

The winners of this game will play Middlesbrough in the fifth round at the Riverside on Wednesday 27 February 2013.

>>Oldham vs Everton:
The last time the sides met, Oldham left Goodison Park with 1-0 win in the FA Cup third round in 2008. Everton though with 2 draws and 2 loses have won just one of their last five visits to Oldham in all competitions.

Oldham are unbeaten in five matches against Everton in the FA Cup with 3 wins and 2 draws. The Latics have won just three of their last 12 games in all competitions. However, two of those wins have come in the last three games.

Forward Lee Barnard has scored in each of his two appearances for Oldham signing joining on loan from Southampton, while Everton's left-back Leighton Baines has scored four times in his last eight appearances for Everton in all competitions.
Everton are unbeaten in their last seven away games in the FA Cup winning 5 and drawing 2.

The Toffees have also won four of their last six on the road with a draw and a loss and their only loss in that run coming at Old Trafford last weekend.

>>Manchester City vs Leeds:
With the FA Cup now looking like the Premier League champions' best chance of silverware, the Premier League champions will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last weekend's upset against Southampton in the Premier League.

This will mark the sixth occasion that Manchester City and Leeds United have clashed in the FA Cup. Leeds lead the head-to-head with three wins to two. The two teams met in the fifth round back in 1977 with Leeds winning 1-0 at Elland Road.

James Milner began his career at Leeds, and became the Premier League's youngest-ever Premier League goalscorer during his time there breaking the record held by Wayne Rooney by just five days at the age of 17. Likewise, Leeds skipper Michael Brown started out at Manchester City. He was sent off 10 minutes into his debut in August 1995.

Leeds have knocked three Premier League clubs out of domestic cup competitions already this season.
In January 2000, when both clubs were in English football's top tier, Leeds thrashed Manchester City 5-2. 12 years on, Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions, while Leeds finished 14th in the division beneath.

Arsenal take on the Championship side this weekend after narrowly edging out another lower-league side, Brighton, in the fourth round.

Blackburn’s visit to Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup fifth round is overshadowed by the arrival of Bayern Munich on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League, so definitely Arsene Wenger will be looking to rest some of his players for that huge encounter next week.

Wenger admits that Blackburn have nothing to lose but the manager is proud of the fact he has never lost to lower league opposition at home in his 16 years as Arsenal manager. And the only away defeats during his tenure have come at Burnley in December 2008 and Bradford in December 2012, both in the latter stages of the League Cup.

Blackburn have had more than their share of upheaval in recent years. For example, Michael Appleton is their third permanent manager of the season.

However just one defeat since Boxing Day has taken the Lancashire side to the fringes of the play-off picture. After relegation last season, an immediate return looks possible.

Also looking at the fact that at the start of the season, Blackburn pulled off something of a coup by signing highly-rated striker Jordan Rhodes from Huddersfield. Nine goals in his last 10 games suggests the Englishman is bang in form. In January they added DJCampbell on loan from QPR, though he is cup-tied for Saturday.

However ex-Arsenal youngster David Bentley was signed on loan on the eve of the game and is eligible to feature in this encounter. Still, the bedrock is the squad is from last season.

It going to be a very difficult game for Arsene Wenger's team, looking at the Blackburn players who have alot of Premier League experience and with aged Danny Murphy also in there, we expect nothing less than a cracker of a game at the Emirates. Referee Mark Dean will be in charge.

>>Manchester United vs Reading:
Following Manchester United's battling 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, Sir Alex Ferguson will most likely introduce some fresh faces when Reading visit on Monday. Should Sir Alex decide to rest players, the likes of Alexander Buttner, Nani, Anderson and Ashley Young could all start, and Nemanja Vidic should return following his rest on Wednesday night.

The Royals are hoping to progess past the FA Cup fifth round for only the third time ever.
Standing in the way of Brian McDermott's side are Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils, and the hosts have only lost two of their last 19 home matches in this competition.

The last two times Manchester United have beaten Fulham at Old Trafford in the FA Cup (as they did in the last round), they have gone on to win it in 2004 and 1999.

Manchester United are unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions against Reading winning 8 and drawing 4. The last time they lost to Reading in the FA Cup was in January 1927.

The Red Devils have won 15 of their last 19 home ties in the FA Cup with 2draws and 2 loses.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side have conceded just one goal in their last five FA Cup matches at Old Trafford. This is the third time in the last four years that Reading have reached the FA Cup fifth round, and only the eighth time in their history. On each of the last two appearances, they have progressed to the last eight.

Only once in the last 12 occasions that Reading have drawn against opponents from the same division in the FA Cup have they progressed to the next round.

Wayne Rooney has scored three goals in his last two starts against Reading. Adam Le Fondre though has scored seven goals in his last seven appearances for Reading in all competitions. He also scored against Manchester United earlier this season.

The clash between the two teams earlier in the season in the Premier League saw seven goals scored in the opening 35 minutes.

United will be looking to put this game away as quickly as they can and avoid a replay with the UEFA Champions League second leg at Old Tafford against Real Madrid still around the corner.

The Quarter Finals draw wil be taking place on Sunday.

Barclays Premier League makes a return next week as champions Manchester City plays Chelsea. Stick with us as we give you a comprehensive preview into all the matches. Until then, let's enjoy the FA Cup games.

David Obasogie is an upcoming, vibrant and wonderful sport pundit presenter/analyst on NOUN Radio 105.9fm. Join him Sport Digest on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday every morning.

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