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FA Cup preview: Eight talkings points ahead of the fifth round action

Ahead of this week’s FA Cup fifth round action, we discuss some of the major talking points as the remaining sides look to reach the last eight.

The lowest-ranked side in the competition will be hoping to cause a major shock as non-league Boreham Wood travel to face Everton, whilst Liverpool will be looking for further success in the domestic cups as the Carabao Cup winners meet Norwich.

Elsewhere Peterborough face a tough test after being drawn to face Manchester City at home, there’s an all-Premier League clash between Southampton and West Ham, and Middlesbrough will be looking to take a second successive top-flight scalp as Spurs visit the Riverside.

 

Here are eight talking points ahead of the midweek FA Cup action.

FA Cup stranglehold eludes Man City

Manchester City are the dominant force in English football at present, having racked up trophies at a staggering rate in recent campaigns.

Pep Guardiola’s team have won three of the past four Premier League titles and are six points clear at the top of the division, whilst the club’s run of four consecutive League Cup trophies only came to an end this season.

City have endured an indifferent record when it comes to the FA Cup, however, winning the competition just once under Guardiola and only twice since their transformative takeover in 2008.

Eliminated in the semi-finals in each of the past two seasons, City will be hoping to go one better and reach the showpiece this season.

Having scored eight goals across fixtures with Swindon and Fulham to reach this stage, few will be anticipating a hiccup as City take on Championship strugglers Peterborough in round five.

Palace run can continue against stuttering Stoke

Crystal Palace are one of a select group of Premier League clubs never to have won the FA Cup, with the Eagles twice finishing as runners-up in the competition.

The most recent of their final appearances came in 2016, a clash made memorable by Alan Pardew’s ill-advised dance moves on the touchline, as Palace took the lead in a game ultimately settled by Jesse Lingard’s fine winner for Manchester United.

Palace face Stoke in round five and it’s a tie that gives Patrick Vieira’s team a strong chance of reaching the last eight. Stoke’s play-off push has faltered after failing to win any of their last four games in the Championship, whilst the Potters have also failed to win any of their last four away games.

Vieira’s side have proven difficult to beat in recent weeks with only Liverpool and Chelsea having taken three points from the Eagles across their past seven Premier League fixtures. Palace will be favourites to reach the quarter-finals, a stage where anything often appears possible.

Middlesbrough eye second ‘top six’ scalp

Middlesbrough secured one of the shocks of the previous round after eliminating Manchester United, the second-tier side riding their luck before beating the Red Devils on penalties at Old Trafford.

Chris Wilder’s team now face a second successive ‘top six’ side as Tottenham arrive at the Riverside on Tuesday evening.

Middlesbrough have stumbled slightly since their fourth round triumph, winning just two of five fixtures including a 3-2 defeat to Barnsley at the weekend, a result which leaves the side two points outside the Championship’s play-off places.

Antonio Conte saw his Spurs side respond from four defeats in five league fixtures with an emphatic 4-0 win over Leeds and the Italian will hope that performance can be the turning point as the club look to find consistency.

Conte reached the FA Cup final in both of his seasons at Chelsea and will view this season’s competition as a realistic avenue to ending Spurs’ 14-year wait for major silverware.

Promotion hopefuls Forest and Huddersfield keen to keep cup momentum

There will be Championship representation in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as Nottingham Forest face Huddersfield in the fifth round, both teams in the mix to secure promotion to the Premier League this season.

Each have beaten Premier League opposition to reach this stage with Forest having enjoyed a memorable run so far, beating Arsenal and Leicester at the City Ground with exciting prospects in Brennan Johnson and Djed Spence having starred.

Huddersfield have progressed past Burnley and Barnsley to set up a tie with Forest and head into the clash on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Championship, a run of results which has lifted the Terriers to third in the division.

No side has taken more than Huddersfield’s 26 points across their last 12 league fixtures (also Fulham and Luton) and the stage is set for a fascinating all-Championship contest in the East Midlands.

Does Tuchel start Kepa?

Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final was headlined by Thomas Tuchel’s decision to substitute Kepa Arrizabalaga into the contest in the final seconds.

The west Londoners had successfully changed goalkeeper in the closing stages of extra time during the UEFA Super Cup win over Villarreal in August, but it was a decision that backfired at Wembley at the weekend.

Kepa – despite a strong record in shootouts this season – failed to save any of Liverpool’s 11 spot-kicks, before proceeding to miss from the spot himself as Chelsea crashed to defeat.

The Spaniard has been Chelsea’s cup goalkeeper this season and would be expected to start against Luton, though there will no doubt be added scrutiny on his performance should he be included.

Luton will be cautiously hopeful of causing an upset as the Championship’s form team at present, having taken 15 points from their last six games to move into the play-offs.

Antonio out to end drought against former side

The goals have dried up for Michail Antonio this season with the forward having failed to score since New Year’s Day, but David Moyes believes an end to the drought is close following an improved performance against Wolves last weekend.

“He [Antonio] probably had his worst last ten minutes but I have to say he had his best 80 minutes for a while,” Moyes said following the 1-0 win.

“He worked brilliantly for the team, got an assist, created chances, the keeper made a good save in the first half. I thought he looked closer to scoring today so I was pleased with him.”

Antonio will take on his former side in Southampton in midweek and the Jamaica international has scored three goals against the Saints previously, including one in West Ham’s 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium on Boxing Day.

The 31-year-old will be desperate to find himself on the scoresheet this week as the Hammers continue to push for success in the FA Cup, Europe and for a top four finish.

Klopp up for the cup?

Jurgen Klopp has often placed the domestic cups down his list of priorities at Liverpool, with the Reds having endured an indifferent record in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup during the German’s reign.

Liverpool’s lack of depth was perhaps reason for the focus being shifted towards the Premier League and Europe, but Klopp is now armed with a squad capable of challenging on multiple fronts.

The recent signings of Ibrahima Konate and Luis Diaz – alongside the emergence of Harvey Elliott – have increased depth in key areas for Liverpool and the Reds earned the first major silverware of the season after beating Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final last weekend.

That win saw Klopp add his first domestic trophy since arriving at Anfield and he could now target a maiden FA Cup triumph.

Liverpool have reached the fifth round for just the second time under Klopp this season and a clash with Norwich provides a good opportunity to reach the last eight. The Reds are unbeaten in their last 17 meetings with the Canaries, a record with stretches back to 1994.

Boreham Wood out to make history

Boreham Wood’s remarkable venture in this season’s FA Cup has seen Luke Garrard’s side reach the fifth round, an upset of Championship promotion hopefuls Bournemouth earning the non-league outfit a dream tie at Everton.

The National League side could become just the second non-league team – after Lincoln City in 2016/17 – to reach the quarter-finals in the modern era, as a fearless team take on an Everton side struggling near the bottom of the Premier League.

Frank Lampard’s priorities are ensuring Premier League survival, but the new manager will be keen to avoid an almighty upset as a side ranked 67 league places lower than the Toffees arrive at Goodison Park.

Boreham Wood are set to wear a commemorative black kit for their glamour tie on Merseyside after it was decided the club’s normal kits would clash with the home side.

Read –Β Player Analysis: Why is Romelu Lukaku Underperforming at Chelsea?

Read Also –Β Premier League Team of the Week – Gameweek 27

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