Premier League football takes a break this weekend as the FA Cup returns. Only seven top-flight clubs remain as we enter the fifth round, with nine others hoping that they’ll have provided the biggest story come the end of the tournament.
It’s David vs Goliath as League Two Newport County take on the colossus of Manchester City, whilst Chelsea host Manchester United in an all Premier League stand-off.
Our football expert offers his insight and opinion and gives you the best bets for this weekend’s Cup action.
Saturday, 17:30 – Newport County v Manchester City
Rodney Parade will host Newport County’s most daunting FA Cup test to date when the two clubs meet this weekend. The venue has become somewhat of an awkward place to visit for Premier League and Championship clubs in recent years, with both Leicester City and Middlesbrough coming up short this current cup run alone.
There are few clubs that present a task as sizeable as the one Manchester City pose, who have shown they are capable of putting more than seven goals away against lower league opposition on more than one occasion this season.
In his first season in charge of the club, Pep Guardiola proved a tad naïve in domestic cup competitions, losing to both Manchester United and Arsenal after fielding drastically weaker starting XIs. The Spaniard has learned from his mistakes and will not be looking beyond Saturday’s match with his Welsh opponents
Monday, 20:00 – Chelsea v Manchester United
By far the most exciting tie of the round, Chelsea play hosts to Manchester United in a match identical to that of the 2016/17 FA Cup quarter-final, where the Blues ran out 1-0 winners through unlikely match winner N’Golo Kante.
A lot has changed since then. Neither Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho have managed to hold down their job at the two respective clubs, yet both current managers are fighting to keep theirs.
Maurizio Sarri needed an emphatic victory away at Malmo in midweek to help butter up his most audible critics, one he did not manage to provide, whilst cracks began to show once more at United as they were beaten comfortably by a Paris Saint Germain team destabilised by injuries to key players.
It’s a big match for both managers. A win on Monday for Sarri is the perfect opportunity to put the struggles of recent weeks behind and restart their season with a blank canvas, whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the opportunity to show that his side are more than just playground bullies.
Though the Blues have the home advantage, there hasn’t been much to suggest that Chelsea are turning a corner in recent performances, if anything the weight of Sarri-ball looks to be becoming a burden rather than a solution. I predict Manchester United to come out on top in normal time with both teams to score, which you can get here at 5/1.
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