The FA Cup returns this weekend and with only one all Premier League tie, the likelihood of a potential upset or two has got people talking. Three of the big four are out so the smaller clubs will fancy their chances of a good cup run and an opportunity to increase their revenue.
The first tie of the round sees cup holders Chelsea welcome Championship side Cardiff to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are currently top of the Premiership and are still in the Champions league meaning the FA cup is probably bottom of their list of priorities. However they will want to defend the title they won in 2009.
The blues will be without their captain John Terry who is in Dubai addressing his recent personal problems. Alex is likely to partner Ricardo Carvalho in the Chelsea defence.
Cardiff are currently in decent form, sitting fourth in the Championship table. Unfortunately for the Bluebirds the progress they’re making on the pitch could be undone by the problems off it. The club was recently issued with a winding up order and could go out of business in the near future. Hopefully the tie will give them a big payday prolonging the clubs life.
However I think this will be their last involvement in the FA Cup this year and Chelsea will run out comfortable winners. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see “Chelsea” printed this year’s FA Cup final betting slips.
Verdict: Chelsea to win by a couple of goals.
Portsmouth v Southampton, Saturday at 12:30
Probably the most eagerly anticipated tie of the round is the derby between local rivals Southampton and Portsmouth. Southampton have struggled in recent times, going from Premiership stalwarts to League One strugglers. They have also been on the verge of administration on a number of occasions meaning they have had to sell their keys stars to prolong their survival. However, there is a new found optimism at St Mary’s and the Saints now have a young, vibrant team with a realistic chance of gaining a place in the play-offs.
Pompey on the other hand are in real trouble. They were recently told they had a week to sort their debts out or they will cease to exist. This could be the last game the club ever plays. The financial problems have been reflected on the pitch and the club are currently six points adrift at the foot of the Premiership table. They should have the quality to beat their bitter rivals though and will be looking at a good cup run to boost everyone the club.
Verdict: Pompey to win 3-1.
Derby v Birmingham, Saturday at 15:00
Premiership Birmingham travel to Derby in possibly the hardest to call tie of the round. The Rams are currently in good form after beating Championship high-flyers Newcastle 3-0 in the week and they will go into the tie full of confidence. They have been nearly unbeatable at home since the turn of the year and will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
However, Birmingham are also in fine form and have been the surprise package of this year’s Premiership, sitting as they do in eighth. The Blues have built their solid season on sturdy foundations, sticking with pretty much the same defence all season. Alex McLeish has fielded an unchanged side since November, but his hand maybe forced after Kevin Phillips brace in last weekend’s victory against local rivals Wolves. While Blues fans won’t be betting on FA Cup glory just yet, if they can get through this tie and get a kind draw a Wembley appearance isn’t out of the question.
Verdict: 1-1 draw at the weekend with Birmingham just edging the replay.
Reading v West Brom, Saturday at 15:00
Reading face West Brom in the only all Championship tie of the round. Reading are this season’s giant killers having beaten both Liverpool and Burnley to reach this stage. However, they have struggled in the league this season. Their form has improved recently though and they have won their last five in all competitions and they are always capable of a big performance when needed.
West Brom currently sit at the top of the Championship after beating Scunthorpe on Tuesday night. They are in great form after winning their last four league games. They will fancy their chances against the Royals. Roberto Di Matteo’s side combine good football with physical strength to make them the perfect team for the Championship.
Verdict: West Brom to edge it 2-1
Let us know which way you think the weekends ties will go by commenting below.