Friday, February 18, 2011

INFTH FA Cup Predictions

Chelsea vs Everton- In what will be one of a two FA Cup fourth round replays taking place this weekend, a stuttering Chelsea take on an Everton side coming off a humiliatingly bad performance against Bolton at the Reebok.

Chelsea may well rest a few of their stuttering stars for Saturday's match, as Carlo Ancelotti will have one eye on Tuesday's Champions League action. However, he will surely start out of form Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to being dropped against Fulham last Monday. Drogba already has one goal against Everton this season, a penalty in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and one would think that the Ivorian forward would love to grab another one in this fixture.

Prediction: 2-1 aet

Birmingham City vs Sheffield Wednesday- Alex Mcleish's men will look to bounce back after a disappointing home loss to Birmingham on Tuesday, and so far this season cup competitions have proved the perfect antidote for such drops in form as these. Buoyed by the ever growing impact of former Valencia striker Nikola Zigic, I fully expect Birmingham to cruise into the sixth round against a team which is finding survival in Leauge One, very difficult indeed.

However, new Owls boss Gary Megson will have other ideas, and the former Bolton manager's Premier League experience may be crucial if Wednesday are to have any chance of advancing in the competition. Crucified, for his love of direct football, Megson will still be slightly hurt by the treatment he received from the Bolton support, a band of supporters for whom survival just wasn't enough, and he will see this match as the first stepping stone on the path to redemption.

Prediction: 2-0

Stoke vs Brighton- Since their promotion in 2008, Tony Pulis has done wonders with a Stoke City side that have become one of the staples of Premiership football over the last few years. However, they will face a stern test on Saturday as League One high fliers Brighton come to town.

A real feel good feeling exists over Brighton football club, with a new stadium ready for the start of next season, one which will most likely take place in the heady heights of the Championship. If Stoke are to beat Brighton, then they will have to disrupt the Seagulls passing game, and impose their own, physical brand of football onto the League One outfit. But this is surely easier said then done, as Brighton are a side full of confidence at the moment.

Prediction: 3-1

Manchester United vs Crawley Town- Non-League Crawley Town will attempt to make history by pulling off what would be one of the most remarkable cupsets of all time by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, Ferguson will not have forgotten United's embarrassing exit at the hands of Leeds last season, as well as past struggles against the likes of Exeter and Burton.

With a slew of United's reserve players in line to make an appearance, one can expect an intense game, with the United youngsters keen to impress, and the Crawley players keen to leave their mark on what will be the biggest day of their entire football careers.

United can't take anything to granted, especially in a competition with a history of providing the unexpected, but I fully believe that Fergie's men will have too much for their Blue Square Premier opposition.

Prediction: 4-0

Manchester City vs Notts County- For Paul Ince and his Notts County team, this game is well and truly a bonus, after a 1-1 draw in the original tie set up this money spinning encounter. Quite frankly, the best result for County's season would be a loss, as they have to concentrate on surviving the drop in League One, but all the neutrals will be firmly behind the Notts County cause.

Roberto Mancini will face a tough task in inspiring his troops, following a morale sucking 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, as well as a disappointing away draw in the Europa League. For Edin Dzeko, this match is an ideal opportunity to cast his mark on a City team which has yet to see the best of the Bosnian striker. Steve Mclaren came out earlier this week, saying that he didn't expect to see the former Wolfsburg striker reach peak form until next season but, knowing City, he may not be given that long.

Prediction: 3-0

Fulham vs Bolton- After a dry run, Owen Coyle's Bolton side have finally rediscovered the form which made them one of the most popular Premier League teams during the first half of the season. Inspired by the signing of Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge on loan for the rest of the season and delighted with the return from international duty of winger Chung Yong Lee, the feel good factor appears to have returned to the Reebok Stadium and with it, improved results.

For Fulham, what would have been considered a decent point against Chelsea last Monday, was marred by Clint Dempsey's late penalty miss. However, that aside, Fulham have been in sumptuous form of late with returning striker Andy Johnson rediscovering the goalscoring touch. Certainly, if Fuham can recreate the form which led them to their evisceration of Tottenham in the fourth round, then Bolton will be no match for Mark Hughes' side.

Prediction: 2-0

Leyton Orient vs Arsenal- Arsenal will have to come down to Earth following their brilliant come back against Barcelona on Wednesday, but one suspects that the mid week result will serve to inspire them, rather than distract them. Orient will be delighted with this, money spinning, draw and one can expect an intense atmosphere in what will surely be a packed Brisbane Road.

This week Orient challenged the decision to award West Ham United the Olympic stadium, believing that the presence of the struggling Premier League side will threaten their very existence. One would hope that the Orient players will use the anger generated by the stadium decision to fire themselves up for the tie, and Arsenal can expect anything but an easy ride in this match.

Prediction: 1-2

West Ham vs Burnley- West Ham will really fancy themselves going far in the cup this year and with the likes of Victor Obinna and Demba Ba in reserve, it's difficult to doubt their cup winning pedigree. The FA Cup has provided West Ham with much needed relief this season, as their league form has been less than exemplary. However, the Irons will be buoyed by their terrific second half come back against West Bromich Albion last weekend and the Upton Park faithful will expect a top performance.

For Burnley, this match provides a further taste of Premiership action after their relegation last season. And though the Championship club will doubtless see winning the competition as one bridge too far, they will expect to put up a decent resistance against West Ham on Monday.

Prediction: 3-1

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