The FA Cup, remarkably, enters its fifth-round stage this weekend with only three of the Premier League’s ‘top six’ left in the competition. Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were eliminated in the fourth round while Liverpool went out in round three.
With two of the remaining ‘big’ teams, Chelsea and Manchester United, set to play each other on Monday, the quarter-finals of this year’s FA Cup could throw up some unusual ties. Who could make it to that mark this weekend?
FA Cup Fifth Round Preview
Newport County v Manchester City
Newport have been well known for producing shocks in cup competitions through recent years, particularly after holding Spurs to a 1-1 draw last season, and this is by far the biggest reward they have seen for their efforts. Pep Guardiola’s band of superstars make the trip to the tiny Rodney Parade stadium in Saturday’s late kick-off aiming to avoid what would be an embarrassing defeat, but one that would send shockwaves around world football.
The Exiles, re-formed in 1989 after the original club went bankrupt, have already beaten Leicester City at their ground this season and brought Middlesbrough back to South Wales for a replay after rescuing a late draw at the Riverside. There’s no doubt that majority of the footballing world will be on their side this weekend when they face a City side that have already torn apart Football League opposition in both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup this season, but it’s highly likely that this will be the end of their remarkable run.
Michael Flynn‘s side will go into the game with no fear but, whatever side Guardiola puts out, they should have more than enough quality to reach the quarter-finals, even if the pitch isn’t quite up to their standards.
AFC Wimbledon v Millwall
AFC Wimbledon just keep surprising everybody in this year’s competition. Expected wins over Haringey Borough and FC Halifax Town in the opening two rounds were less surprising but, having struggled at the foot of League One for most of this season, with goals at an all-time premium, heads were turned when they scored late on to win 3-2 away at Fleetwood Town in round three.
That game wasn’t the big shock, though. Instead, it was the Dons’ 4-2 win over West Ham United in the fourth round that had everybody talking. They were 3-0 up through Kwesi Appiah and Scott Wagstaff‘s double before Lucas Perez and Felipe Anderson threatened to bring the Hammers back into it. However, 19-year-old Toby Sibbick headed in the goal that confirmed victory and sent them through to play Millwall.
Millwall’s run has been just as impressive, though, defeating an in-form Hull City side at the New Den before they faced Marco Silva’s Everton. A thrilling, yet controversial, game in East London saw Neil Harris’ side come out 3-2 winners thanks to Murray Wallace‘s winner in the fourth minute of added time.
Both sides have surely already achieved their target for this competition by reaching the fifth round, but the right to say that they were quarter-finalists in the 2018/19 season is an accolade that neither will want to pass up – this has the potential to be the tie of the weekend.
Chelsea v Manchester United
Who doesn’t love two of the big boys meeting each other in the FA Cup? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have already knocked Arsenal out of this year’s competition and, even after suffering their first loss under the Norweigan at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain this week, they will firmly believe that they can do the same to a Chelsea side that are stuttering under Maurizio Sarri.
A win against Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie wasn’t enough to stop a minority of Blues fans wanting Sarri out of the club, with Chelsea stumbling over the line against the Swedish side after lining up with what could be considered one of their strongest teams even for a Premier League game.
Games like that can go out of the window once FA Cup ties come around, though, and the Blues will no doubt be up for this one, especially with their cup title from last year to defend.
Full Fixture List
Friday 15th February
Queens Park Rangers v Watford – 7.45pm
Saturday 16th February
Brighton & Hove Albion v Derby County – 12.30pm
AFC Wimbledon v Millwall – 3.00pm
Newport County v Manchester City – 5.30pm
Sunday 17th February
Bristol City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 1.00pm
Doncaster Rovers v Crystal Palace – 4.00pm
Swansea City v Brentford – 4.00pm
Monday 18th February
Chelsea v Manchester United – 7.30pm