Will Rooney and Man Utd take out frustrations on Chelsea?

Mar 8, 2013

United and Chelsea clash in FA Cup quarter final, and can Gareth Bale carry on scoring for Spurs?

Paul Ellis

IT'S THAT time of year when the Premier League and FA Cup start to overlap, and teams will play in both competitions this weekend. Although there are six Premier League fixtures taking place, the biggest clashes come in the cup.

There's no doubt about the most eagerly anticipated game of the weekend. It takes place on Sunday afternoon and sees Manchester United take on Chelsea.

After the events of Tuesday night, when United were knocked out of the Champions League, there is no doubt that Alex Ferguson and his men will be fired up for this one. The main concern could be that they are too wound up for the clash.

There has been fevered speculation over the future of Wayne Rooney after he was left out of the starting line-up against Real Madrid on Tuesday. But at his press conference on Friday morning Alex Ferguson insisted that the striker would not be leaving the club and will be involved in Sunday's clash.

It will be interesting to see whether Nani, whose sending off triggered United's European exit, will get another run out.

Whatever his starting line-up there is no escaping the fact that the FA Cup will now have become a major priority for Ferguson and United. The treble may be out of the question, but a domestic league and cup double would go some way towards easing the pain of another failed European campaign.

Chelsea, of course, will be out to dash another United dream and Rafa Benitez would, no doubt, take great delight in inflicting more misery on his old enemy, Alex Ferguson.

But the signs are not good for Chelsea. They are a long way from being the formidable unit of days gone by and an away game in Romania on Thursday night is hardly the ideal preparation for a clash of this magnitude.

The Blues have won only five of their last 12 games in all competitions and have slipped to fourth in the Premier League. Their Europa League campaign is hanging by a thread after they were beaten 1-0 by Steaua Bucharest and the supporter unrest at Stamford Bridge does not help matters.

However, the FA Cup now looks like Chelsea's best chance of silverware this season and they will not want to let it slip through their fingers.

With the stakes high for both clubs it should be a game worth watching, although a home win looks the most likely outcome.

On Saturday, Manchester City will hope to book themselves a place in the FA Cup semi finals as they take on Barnsley of the Championship. Roberto Mancini's men are 12 points adrift of Man United in the league and, just like Chelsea, know that the FA Cup represents their only realistic chance of a trophy this season.

Barnsley are not on a bad run and have lifted themselves off the foot of the table, but are still facing relegation to League One. Their chances of inflicting a shock defeat on the reigning Premier League champions at the Etihad are slim at best.

The last-eight tie between Wigan and Everton could be a tighter affair. It kicks off on Saturday lunchtime and could be a humdinger. Wigan usually start performing at about this stage of the season. It seems they need the threat of relegation to get their juices flowing, and Roberto Martinez will be keen to provide the club with something positive to concentrate on. And what could be better than an FA Cup semi final?

Everton, on the other hand, appear to have blown their chance of a top-four finish - although they may still have designs on fifth place. The Toffees are desperate to prove that they can dine at the top table of English football and will believe that they have a chance of winning the cup. They will be favourites to go through to the semi finals, particularly as the game is taking place at Goodison Park.

The last of the quarter-finals is an all Championship affair with Millwall taking on Blackburn, who vanquished Arsenal in the last round. This is a huge match for these two teams with a trip to Wembley and a near guarantee of a match against a big club at stake.

Both sides are struggling in the Championship and it is tough to call. Between them they have managed one win in their last 12 league games. This is unlikely to be a free-flowing classic but it could produce some goals.

In the Premier League the biggest match is between high-flying Spurs and Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. The main questions will be whether Spurs can maintain their recent form and if Gareth Bale can score yet again. He has 11 in his last nine games for club and country, and seems unstoppable at the moment.

A win for Spurs would up the pressure on Man City in second place and leave them ten points clear of Arsenal in fifth place.

Liverpool's hopes of qualifying for Europe would be all but over if they lose. However their home form this season has been erratic and they have won only half their games at Anfield. Their record against the top teams is poor as well, and they haven't beaten Spurs since 2010. A draw might be the most likely outcome.

At the bottom of the division there are three significant matches on Saturday. Reading's game against Aston Villa is an out-and-out six pointer with both teams knowing that a win could lift them out of the relegation zone.

Bottom club QPR face Sunderland knowing that a win would increase their chances of a dramatic escape no end, and would drag the Black Cats into the relegation scrap.

Southampton's trip to Norwich is also intriguing. A win for the Saints would see them edge away from the drop zone, but would leave the Canaries biting their nails. A win for Norwich on the other hand would do wonders for their peace of mind and leave Southampton in a real scrap.

In the weekend's other games West Brom face Swansea and Newcastle play Stoke.

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