Gullit and Jones on collision course

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The Independent Online
Football: There is no pay-per-view, yet, for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup which does not mean the last four allowed to dream of twin towers will not be decided without cost. On what should be a showpiece day for football's glamour competition the action is diluted to quarter strength.

At most only one semi-finalist will be discovered today and while the weather has been responsible for Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest having to play out the dregs of the fifth round, the chief culprit for the lack of action, as ever, is television.

The tie of the round, Leeds United versus Liverpool, is played tomorrow while Manchester United do not meet Southampton until Monday night which means the only quarter-final today will be Chelsea against Wimbledon. The words short and changed come to mind for some reason.

Wimbledon were quoted as 20/1 for the Cup yesterday which represents good value as they won at Chelsea in the Premiership earlier this season and caused them considerable problems in the dress rehearsal at Selhurst Park last week. It is a measure of the confidence running through the visitors that Dean Holdsworth, their top scorer in the League, will probably be on the bench after recovering from flu.

There is also the potentially explosive mixture of Chelsea's Ruud Gullit and Wimbledon's Vinnie Jones on the same pitch which passed without incident last week but is unlikely to do so for two matches running. Jones, it should be remembered, was sent off for fouling the Dutchman earlier in the season and then was fined for making derogatory remarks about him.

At White Hart Lane, the identity of the team to play host to Aston Villa in the sixth round on Wednesday could rest on the fitness of Nottingham Forest's Stuart Pearce and Tottenham's Chris Armstrong. The former has a sore calf, the latter an ankle injury.

Pearce made his comeback in Tuesday's Uefa Cup quarter-final against Bayern Munich after missing eight matches with a calf strain and although he was limping through the final stages of the game, he has shown a great improvement over the last 48 hours.

Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager, would certainly prefer it if he did not play. "Stuart obviously means so much to them," he said. "That's why they shoved him straight back in, as soon as he physically could, for a big match like that one in Munich.

If Leeds had a choice they would probably rather face Liverpool without Stan Collymore, particularly as the pounds 8.5m striker has a slight grudge to exorcise at Elland Road. When the clubs met in August he had to be carried off after a foul that should have yielded a penalty. To add insult to injury Tony Yeboah later won that game with an explosion of a shot from 25 yards.

Steve McManaman, Liverpool's midfield player, agreed that result still rankled even if a 5-0 win in the return at Anfield was adequate revenge. "We're playing very well and we're confident where ever we go," he said. "Everyone's enjoying themselves and the two up front can't stop scoring so I don't see why we can't win." One of the striking duo, of course, is Collymore.

While attention is on the Cup there is a significant day in the Premiership where struggling Middlesbrough, Coventry and Queen's Park Rangers will be desperate for points as they travel to West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa respectively.

The Brazilian Branco is likely to make his first start for Middlesbrough as they hope to arrest their post-Christmas decline of one point from 11 games while, at Goodison, Marc Hottiger is set to make his Everton debut after the Government's change in the work permit law allowed his move from Newcastle to go through.