European Adventures OVER

The European dream is over for the Premier League representatives as Arsenal and Manchester City joined Chelsea out of the Champions League. Everton remain the only side still with European commitments in the Europa League but their place is under jeopardy with a trip away to Dynamo Kiev with a slender 2-1 lead. The tie of the weekend takes place at Anfield as England’s 2 most successful clubs go head to head, Liverpool v Manchester United.Man City vs. West Brom

Manchester City v West Brom: Confidence will be extremely low at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City have lost 4 out of their last 5 fixtures. 2 successive Premier League away defeats to Liverpool and Burnley have virtually handed Chelsea one hand on the title and instead of looking ahead, City are anxiously looking behind them with Arsenal, United and Liverpool hot on their heels.

Tony Pulis has done a magnificent job since taking over West Brom and the form of Brown Ideye has boosted them up the table into 13th place after their recent win over Stoke City. The very best West Brom can hope for this season is a top half finish but Pulis will be content on surviving relegation as soon as possible and then building for next year. [Read more…]

The FA Cup Continues!

The FA Cup quarter-finals dominate English football this weekend as the remaining 8 teams battle it out for a place in the semi-finals and an appearance at Wembley. In the Premier League the only game features a London derby as 2 of Harry Redknapp’s former clubs go head to head with Tottenham looking to get over their Capital One Cup Final defeat to Chelsea against QPR.

QPR vs. Tottenham

QPR v Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino would’ve been disheartened at losing his first appearance in an English final last weekend as his side couldn’t make their first half pressure count. Chelsea eventually ran out 2-0 winners with a far from convincing performance. Tottenham must bounce back though as a 3 day period has seen them knocked out of the Europa League and now the Capital One Cup failure.

They’re still in the hunt for a place in the top 4 but their run of 0 wins out of their previous 5 makes a trip to QPR tough. QPR meanwhile occupy the 1st of the 3 relegation spots and are running out of games to reach the 40 point mark which usually guarantee’s safety in the Premier League. Chairmen Tony Fernandes will be desperate to keep the club in the Premier League given the recent announcement of the TV deal that will see a whopping £5billion distributed between the 20 Premier League clubs. [Read more…]

“Super Sunday” to steal the headlines!

Although we’re still pretty early on in 2015, the weekend we have ahead of us is no doubt going to be a treat for all football fans. Sunday steals all the headlines as we have Liverpool taking on Manchester City followed up shortly by Arsenal v Everton at the Emirates. Just when we thought we had saw it all, the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley takes centre stage as 2 London clubs make the short trip to the national stadium as Chelsea and Tottenham go head to head.

Man United vs. Sunderland

 

Manchester United v Sunderland: Louis Van Gaal may prefer his side being taken out of the limelight by playing on the Saturday and they’re the only side in the top 4 competing. They welcome Sunderland to Old Trafford and Sunderland have been in very poor form, drawing once out of their last 3 and losing the other 2 to QPR and Bradford City.

Manchester United will be without Robin Van Persie and James Wilson against Sunderland whilst Jack Rodwell continues to miss game after game through injury. Gus Poyet will cast a very frustrated figure that Rodwell’s injury concerns continue to haunt his career as the former Everton and Manchester City midfielder hasn’t managed a run of games for the club since his arrival. [Read more…]

African Nations Stars Return

For Manchester City they’ll be delighted the African Cup of Nations has finished. Although Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony won’t share their feelings, the newly crowned winners of the ACON will now be determined to reduce the gap between them and Chelsea which has significantly increased after Toure’s absence which has struck them hard. The Ivory Coast duo will be taking on another of their international colleagues as they welcome Newcastle United to the Etihad Stadium who also sees the return of Cheick Tiote.

Aston Villa vs. Stoke

Aston Villa v Stoke City: Tim Sherwood is back in the Premier League and returns with Aston Villa who have dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season and ultimately sealed Paul Lambert’s fate. No one can criticise Lambert for his methods and attempts to blood in youngsters but he clearly wasn’t getting the best out of a talented group at Villa Park.

Sherwood has already played a positive effect, giving them a few words at half time against Leicester City in the FA Cup last weekend sparked some life into them where they eventually ran out 2-1 victors. Stoke City won at Villa last season 4-1 but they were on the receiving end of the score line in the FA Cup 5th round when they were hammered by Blackburn Rovers. Stoke are sitting very pretty in the top half of the table and have a comfortable 6 point gap between them and Everton in 12th place and have no concerns about relegation unlike their opposition on Saturday. [Read more…]

The Wembley Dream Continues…

The FA Cup returns to centre stage this weekend after an action packed week with all 20 Premier League sides in action midweek and it produced its usual drama and goals. The cup is at the 5th round stage and for Steven Gerrard this competition has significant sentimental value to it after his decision to leave Liverpool at the end of year to pursue a different challenge in the MLS.

CrystalPalacevsLiverpool

Crystal Palace v Liverpool: In Gerrard’s way of a date with the quarter finals of the FA Cup is Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. The FA Cup marked Pardew’s 1st win as boss at Palace with a comfortable 4-0 victory at Dover and they continued their run with a confidence boosting 3-2 victory at Southampton which has now rewarded them for the first time in the competition, a home fixture.

Liverpool left it late in the 4th round with a slender 2-1 victory against Bolton in a 4th round replay and they only stumbled across the finishing line against AFC Wimbledon in the previous round with a 2-1 victory thanks to 2 Gerrard goals. Gerrard’s teammates will be desperate to give him a Wembley send off on his birthday which will mark his last ever appearance for Liverpool and a deserved one for his loyalty to the club since 1998.

Neither side will be making wholesale changes from their respective Premier League ties midweek but you can expect Brendan Rodgers to withdraw Daniel Sturridge from the firing line after he made his first start since late August on Tuesday night. Raheem Sterling was absent against Tottenham and it is highly unlikely his fitness will be risked which could mean a start for Mario Balotelli who netted his first Premier League goal for Liverpool against Tottenham since his summer switch from AC Milan.

There are four 5th round ties taking place on Saturday with Crystal Palace v Liverpool the late kick off at 17:30pm. 3 out of the other 6 teams competing on Saturday are from the Championship. An all Championship affair takes place at the iPro Stadium as Derby County take on Reading. Blackburn Rovers will be desperate to extend their run in the FA Cup with finances extremely insecure and they welcome Stoke City to Ewood Park where Mark Hughes will visit the ground where his managerial career all started. The early kick off is an all Premier League clash as West Brom take on West Ham, two managers well known for their direct style of play.

Arsenal vs Middlesbrough

Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Middlesbrough will be out to prove their shock 2-0 win at the Etihad to knockout Manchester City was no fluke. They sit top of the Championship and will head to the Emirates full of confidence with nothing to lose. It’s safe to say that Arsene Wenger won’t be taking the North East side lightly and will be determined to defend their trophy.

Arsenal will be confident they can successfully reclaim their title and were buoyed by the exits to Manchester City and Chelsea in the last round. Liverpool and Manchester United will be their biggest rivals and for Arsenal it is likely to be their biggest chance of a trophy this season so don’t expect Wenger to field a weakened side. The score line against Brighton suggests they edged past them with a 3-2 victory but they were the dominant side and controlled large periods of the game.

The statistics for Middlesbrough are very impressive. They’ve won 6 on the bounce, unbeaten in 10 and conceded only 3 goals in the process. Aitor Karanka has built a very solid side and will be determined to get them back to the Premier League since being relegated in 2009. However, they were knocked out of the 5th round by Chelsea a couple of seasons ago and will be looking to defy the odds once again.

Middlesbrough’s dramatic win over Manchester City was overshadowed by Bradford City’s incredible 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge after being 2-0 down. Phil Parkinson has history with Bradford in cup competitions and they face an ‘easier’ tie in the 5th round. Sunderland travel to Bradford City hoping to do what Jose Mourinho’s side couldn’t.

Managerless Aston Villa take on almost managerless Leicester City in the midday kick off on Sunday. Paul Lambert’s poor run of form cost him his job whilst Nigel Pearson can be grateful that he got reinstated as manager after a brief dismissal.

Preston vs Man United

Preston v Manchester United: Louis Van Gaal is in a similar position to Arsene Wenger with the FA Cup realistically the only trophy that he has a chance of getting his hands on. The Dutchman is well known for grabbing at least one piece of silverware in his first season at a new club and he will be looking to continue that tradition on. They’ve been handed a tie against League 1 Preston who are the lowest side left in the competition alongside Bradford.

Preston will take confidence from how MK Dons destroyed United earlier on in the season in the Capital One Cup but the reds have improved hugely since that defeat. However, Cambridge United recently took them to a replay at Old Trafford and Burnley made them work extremely hard for the victory in the Premier League on Wednesday night.

Preston won 3-1 at Sheffield United in the 4th round replay and Simon Grayson has defied the odds once before against Manchester United as his Leeds United side back in 2008 knocked them out on their own soil.

Saturday 14th February 2015

West Ham v West Brom (12.45pm, BT Sport 1)
Derby v Reading (15.00pm)
Blackburn Rovers v Stoke City (15.00pm)
Crystal Palace v Liverpool (17.30pm, BT Sport 1)

Sunday 15th February 2015
Aston Villa v Leicester City (12.45pm, BBC1)
Bradford v Sunderland (14:30pm)
Arsenal v Middlesbrough (16:00pm, BT Sport 1)

Monday 16th February 2015
Preston v Manchester United (19:45pm, BBC1)