Hello! Just 16 teams remain in this season’s FA Cup and only 7 are Premier League sides. It’s been a season of shocks but the draw has turned out about as well as it could. Most of the ties involving Premier League sides see them visit lower league opposition, plus the added bonus of titanic clash on Monday evening. Six of the ties are on TV so there’s no shortage of action to enjoy. Let’s take a look through the ties to decide how much of a groove will be left in your favourite chair.
Hornets and Hoops
QPR are a funny old team, aren’t they? Steve McClaren keeps threatening to shake off his “wally with a brolly” tag but then they go months without a win. He’s just lucky nothing rhymes with accent. Anyway, Watford are the visitors to Loftus Road and Javi Gracia has got to like his chances. Gracia came in for criticism by changing his entire 11 for the trip to Newcastle in the previous round and I’d expect something similar here. The Hornets are 8th and very much in the mix for that 7th place which might mean Europa League football – but they are also two games from Wembley. It seems to me that Watford have a lot of players who they can interchange without losing a great deal of quality. That should stand them in good stead here. QPR meanwhile were 4-0 down last weekend and nearly drew 4-4, so it won’t be dull. BT Sport have this one for you and kick off is at 7.45pm.
Best and Worst
I said in the intro that most of the ties involving Premier League sides do at least see the top flight side making the away trip. BT’s early match on Saturday does not see that. What a treat it will be to see Brighton host Derby County. Neither team are in particularly great form and both would probably rather focus on the league given recent results, but one of these teams will be one win from Wembley after this round. An added bonus is that there are no replays from here, somebody has to win. Brighton will start favourites but Frank Lampard has given both cups his utmost respect this season. Harry Wilson has been particularly impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing how gets on against Premier League opposition. It’s the least appetising TV tie of the round but we’ll make the best of it.
I have to say, I am looking forward to Newport vs Man City. Newport have been the feel-good team of this year’s competition and I was delighted for them to get drawn against Manchester City. This one is also on BT, this time at 5.30pm. Obviously, people will be all “Burton this” and “Rotherham that” who conceded a combined 16 goals over two games and yes, there is a chance it’ll happen again. But there’s also a chance that it won’t and that is basically the FA Cup in a nutshell. The Newport pitch has been a topic of discussion but I think Pep’s team could play on a potato field and still be good. Either way, there’s enough intrigue here to make me interested. Newport beat Leicester in round 3 and Leicester beat Man City in the league in December. So, you know…
AFC Wimbledon vs Millwall is also on Saturday but is not on TV. Two of the headliners from the 4th round go head to head and it’s a shame they weren’t given a bigger reward. Still, it’s a chance to make an FA Cup quarter-final which is surely prized enough?
Three and easy
Sunday has three more games, two of which are on TV. BT’s fourth and final tie is at 1pm where Bristol City host Wolves. These two teams are in good form, with Bristol City up to 5th in the Championship after 9 consecutive wins. Wolves are 7th in the Premier League and generally enjoy playing away from home where their counter-attacking style comes into its own. Wolves are in a similar position to Watford where they will doubtless make changes but I don’t really think there’s a need to. Lee Johnson won’t want his winning run to come to an end but the main prize for his side will be Premier League football next season. For that reason, I expect Wolves to win through but it’ll be tight.
Swansea vs Brentford is not on TV. Rejoice! All I hope is that whoever wins this doesn’t draw Wimbledon or Millwall in the quarterfinals. Nobody wants that.
The BBC finally get involved in the TV times at 4pm when Doncaster host Crystal Palace. This is League One vs Premier League so a very traditional FA Cup tie. Roy Hodgson will probably take the opportunity to get some minutes into the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke but he can’t take this lightly. Doncaster are in the playoff positions and in John Marquis possess an in-form goalscorer. It might be an interesting afternoon in Yorkshire.
The 5th round is brought to a close by Chelsea vs Man Utd on BBC One. The kick-off time is 7.30pm which may catch a few out – but not you as you’ve read this. These are two sides heading in opposite directions. Sarri is under extreme pressure as his ‘Sarriball’ has been unpicked a lot recently. That has mainly been away from home though. Man Utd could do no wrong under Ole Solskjaer but things unravelled against PSG in midweek. Not only did they lose but injuries to Lingard and Martial may hinder Solskjaer further here. They host Liverpool next weekend which may see further rotation from the Norwegian whilst Chelsea will be 6 days away from the Carabao Cup final. Hopefully that all adds up to both teams just going for it and giving us a footballing feast.
That concludes our FA Cup preview. Whether your team is involved or not, I hope you are enthused for the world’s oldest cup competition to take centre stage again. On the plus side, this is the last time where there are no Premier League games alongside it for the rest of the season. See you for the quarterfinals!