The Premier League clubs turn their attention to the FA Cup this weekend with five of the top six clubs still involved in the competition. Four of those play their fifth round ties with Chelsea playing their fourth round replay at home to Brentford after escaping with a 2-2 draw in the first encounter.
Arsenal are still fighting for their first piece of silverware for seven years and are facing Bayern Munich next week in the Champions League. Whilst manager Arsene Wenger will have one eye on that fixture, he will be well aware of the importance of the FA Cup and is unlikely to put out a sub-strength team for the visit of Blackburn. Captain Thomas Vermaelen faces a late fitness check along with Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny. Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes recovered from a broken nose to play in midweek against Brighton. He has scored 22 goals in all competitions this season and will be a threat to the home side. Rovers are on a decent run of form at the moment having gone five games without defeat. Their priority will be to reach a championship playoff place and anything they get from this match will be a bonus.
Oldham sensationally dumped Liverpool out in the last round and Matt Smith, who scored twice in the 3-2 victory, could return from a shoulder injury in time to meet Everton. The five-goal thriller with Liverpool had all the hallmarks of a typical FA Cup tie and Everton will not be relishing the trip to Boundary Park. Manager David Moyes has failed to bring silverware to Goodison in over ten years at the club and he will view this as a great opportunity. Sylvain Distin should be fit to start for Everton having pulled out of last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.
Manchester City’s Premiership title hopes took a severe dent with a 3-1 defeat at Southampton and they will be looking to salvage some pride in their last remaining cup competition when they host Leeds United. Captain Vincent Kompany is still doubtful with a calf injury but Carlos Tevez looks set to return. Leeds knocked Tottenham out in round 4 and will look to play a similar counter-attacking style against the champions.
This competition may be low on the list of priorities for Manchester United after their Champions League draw at Real Madrid in midweek. Javier Hernandez, Ashley Young, Nani and Nemanja Vidic could all return for the clash with Reading. The visitors will be hoping that in-form striker Adam Le Fondre can continue to find the target.
In the remaining fifth round ties, Wigan have fielded a weakened side throughout the competition to date and manager Roberto Martinez is unlikely to change that policy when they travel to Huddersfield. Luton host Millwall and MK Dons play Barnsley with the prospect of a glamour quarter-final tie uppermost in their minds. Luton made history by becoming the first non-league side to knock out a Premiership club when they defeated Norwich 1-0 in round four. The Hatters have taken only 1 point from their last three league games and Millwall will be hopeful of putting an end to their cup run.
As reigning champions, Chelsea look a good wager at 5-1 in the football betting to win the FA Cup outright. The Blues have won their last two games and will be able to include David Luiz, Demba Ba, Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel in their squad, all missing from the midweek victory over Sparta Prague in the Europa League. Brentford were close to causing the upset of the round but it will be a massive surprise if Chelsea don’t make home advantage tell. The winners face a trip to Middlesbrough in the next round.