FA Cup revamp
We’ve reached the quarter final stage of the FA Cup and that means it’s time for a facelift for the world’s oldest cup competition. As a result of the tournament turning into a straight knockout at the quarter-final stage, an extra substitute will be allowed during the additional 30 minutes to add “extra intrigue and interest” as FA chief executive Martin Glenn put it. Whilst protecting player welfare as cramp sets in, it will also be interesting to see how managers use it – whether they attack relentlessly before throwing on an extra defender or add another forward from the offset to push for a winner. A combination of this and no replays will hopefully encourage more exciting and attacking football to revitalise the FA Cup.
Mourinho’s Chelsea return (part II)
Jose Mourinho gets another shot at redemption when he returns to Stamford Bridge for the second time this season on Monday night. His first trip back there since being sacked last season was disastrous as United were picked apart in a 4-0 humbling as the Portuguese and his successor, Antonio Conte, clashed on the touchline. He will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic-less but United are a far better team now than they were back in October and there is no way Mourinho would allow such a capitulation to happen again. Knocking Chelsea out will be a tall order and it will be interesting to see whether Mourinho decides to play a full-strength team with the return leg at home to Rostov only three days later.
Battle at the bottom
Hull host fellow relegation candidates Swansea, who have had a resurgence under new manager Paul Clement. The Swans are up to 16th and are five points clear of the relegation zone and Hull need to win on Saturday to prevent them from pulling away in the battle against the drop. Hull have improved under Marco Silva but good results for the likes of Swansea and Leicester mean it has counted for nothing so far. It is a must-win game for the Tigers if they are to have any hope of avoiding relegation while Swansea could jump up as high as 14th and put themselves in a very strong position with 10 games remaining.
Lincoln City continue their miraculous run in the FA Cup with a trip to the Emirates to face under-pressure Arsenal. The Gunners knocked out Sutton United in the last round and the quarter final tie looks like an ideal opportunity for them to march straight into the semi-finals and, with a shot at the final and a trip to Wembley, take some of the pressure off Arsene Wenger. Lincoln have dumped out the then Championship leaders Brighton and Premier League side Burnley in the last two rounds but will Arsenal be a step too far? There is no better time to face the Gunners but you feel that Wenger’s men could also be in the market to take out their frustrations and dish out some heavy punishment.
Can Liverpool get over their bottom half problems?
Liverpool have an opportunity to open up a five point gap between themselves in fourth and Arsenal in fifth this weekend when they host Burnley on Sunday. By the end of the weekend both the Gunners and Manchester United will have two games in hand over them but it is vital they win to put the pressure on. However, despite their fine record against the top six, all five of Liverpool’s defeats this season have come against sides in the bottom half. Burnley fall into that category and it remains to be seen whether the Reds will be able to come up with something different to break them down – especially considering the Clarets bested them 2-0 at Turf Moor at the start of the season.