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Five talking points ahead of the FA Cup action

Ahead of this week’s FA Cup quarter-final action, we discuss some of the major talking points as the remaining sides look to reach the last four.

Master meets apprentice at the Etihad

There will be a warm welcome for Vincent Kompany on his return to Manchester City this weekend, but the home side should be beware of their former captain.

Kompany is held in revered status on the blue half of Manchester, the club’s leader during their transition into a modern footballing superpower. A statue of the Belgian resides outside the Etihad, a nod to more than a decade of dedicated service.

The 36-year-old has since moved into management and is fast developing a fine reputation less than 30 miles from his former home. Kompany’s appointment at Burnley has transformed the Clarets from an uncompromising and workman-like side into one of English football’s best watches, with the club head and shoulders above their Championship competition this season.

There has no doubt been a Pep Guardiola influence on Kompany’s football philosophy, one implemented in fine fashion during a memorable campaign at Turf Moor. Promotion back into the Premier League appears a formality with a 19-point cushion to third-placed Middlesborough, with Kompany’s charges next targeting an upset of City to reach the FA Cup’s last four.

Unbeaten since November in the Championship, the apprentice will be quietly confident of unnerving his former mentor.

Stuttering Sheffield United look to rediscover momentum

Sheffield United remain in a strong position to return to the Premier League this season, but the Blades have seen their push for promotion falter in recent weeks. It’s four defeats in seven league fixtures for Paul Heckingbottom’s side, who had lost just five of their previous 30 in the Championship.

After an upset of Tottenham in the last round, the FA Cup could provide a welcome break for Sheffield United who have avoided Premier League opposition in the quarter-finals. An all second-tier showdown with Blackburn awaits the Blades at Bramall Lane, guaranteeing lower league opposition in the semi-finals.

The visitors are also chasing Premier League promotion and will arrive in South Yorkshire in fine form, having won four of their last five league games – including a 1-0 win over Sheffield United – to close the gap on the automatic promotion places.

A return to the top flight will be the chief focus for both sides, but a trip to Wembley represents a fine carrot as the two teams go head-to-head this weekend. After a much-needed win at Sunderland in midweek, another win for Sheffield United could rebuild momentum after their season threatened to stutter.

Seagulls set sight on maiden major trophy

Brighton continue to go from strength to strength under Roberto De Zerbi and maintained their challenge for European football with a win over Crystal Palace in midweek.

It is a campaign in which the Seagulls’ supporters have began to dream of unprecedented heights, with a first ever European campaign and major trophy realistic targets before the end of the season.

Brighton are one of just five Premier League clubs – alongside Crystal Palace, Fulham, Brentford and Bournemouth – to have never won a major English or European trophy, but face the lowest-ranked side in the last eight this weekend as fourth-tier Grimsby, 78 places behind Brighton in England’s pyramid, visit the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

A favourable fixture at this stage of the competition, it’s a huge chance for Brighton to reach Wembley and the FA Cup semi-finals. However, Grimsby are chasing history of their own as The Mariners look to become the lowest-ranked team to reach the semi-finals. Having already eliminated five opponents from higher divisions this season – including Premier League Southampton – Paul Hurst’s time have previous for upsets in this competition.

Pereira makes Manchester return after finding feet at Fulham

Andreas Pereira will make his return to Manchester United this weekend as Fulham travel to Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The midfielder spent a decade with the Red Devils, but failed to establish himself in the club’s plans and spent much of his time on various loan spells. In search of belonging and status, he departed for Fulham last summer and hasn’t looked back, cementing himself as key figure in the club’s impressive Premier League return.

“I didn’t speak with Ten Hag,” Pereira told ESPN on his decision to leave United.

“I know him because I worked with him at PSV but I was determined in my head and maybe if I spoke with the manager again I would stay. In my head I was thinking ‘I need to go, I need to feel confident and play’ and that’s what I did.

“At United I had a lot of memories; good memories, bad memories. It’s been 10 years at the club. I arrived when I was 16 so, you know, a young boy. It was an amazing ride but I got to the stage where I thought maybe it was best not to stay.

“I wanted to feel more loved and I wanted to play every game. What Fulham offered me and what [manager] Marco [Silva] offered me, it was the perfect opportunity.”

The Brazilian leads his Fulham teammates key passes and crosses per game this season, while his six assists are unmatched at Craven Cottage. He will want to prove how far he has come when he faces his former side this weekend and will hope to take advantage of Casemiro’s absence and influence the game from an advanced midfield role.

Ten Hag targeting domestic cup double

Erik ten Hag’s first season at Manchester United has been a positive one, with the Red Devils having taken steps forward under the new head coach.

Improvement in the Premier League has come alongside League Cup success last month, ending a six-year wait for silverware and ensuring the feel-good factor has returned to Old Trafford. United are in a strong position to secure Champions League qualification, while the club continue to compete on multiple fronts.

A win over Real Betis on Thursday booked a place in the Europa League quarter-finals, while a Wembley semi-final is on offer as Ten Hag’s team take on Fulham in the FA Cup this weekend.

Manchester United have never won both domestic cups in the same campaign, with just five teams – Arsenal (1992-93), Liverpool (2000-01), Chelsea (2006-07), Manchester City (2018-19) and Liverpool (2021-22) – having previously achieved the feat.

Read – Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

Read Also – Eight players who are set to dominate the transfer headlines this summer

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