Pep Guardiola said Friday that “the FA Cup is complicated”. There may be no better way to sum up the competition for top Premier League clubs.
Often sandwiched between critical league contests or European competitions, weakened lineups have become the norm in earlier rounds of the tournament.
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With 16 teams remaining, managers must weigh the risks of current and future schedule congestion with the fact that four more wins in the FA Cup bring silverware (and an automatic berth in the Europa League group stage).
Here are some predictions for this weekend’s fifth round match-ups:
Burnley FC vs. Lincoln City
Sean Dyche‘s Clarets are 10 points clear of the drop zone and facing non-league competition at home. They’ll have a strong lineup and win easily. Sorry, Imps, this one goes 3-1.
Middlebrough vs. Oxford United
Boro is still very much in a relegation battle, but needs to find its scoring touch in a big way. Oxford waxed a weakened Newcastle in the last round, and are no easy hurdle. 2-1, Smoggies.
Millwall vs. Leicester City
The Foxes have a trip to Sevilla and a visit from Liverpool next, and Claudio Ranieri won’t risk his best XI here. That and the away trip are probably enough to move Millwall into the quarterfinals. 1-0, Lions.
Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City
The Terriers are Premier League hopefuls, but there’s a far cry between hope and reality. And Huddersfield boss David Wagner could be resting some guys as well with a busy promotion push ahead. Even City’s second unit — the PL giants host Monaco on Tuesday — will be enough for a 3-1 win.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
With a comfortable lead in the table and no other competitions this season, Chelsea will manage to cruise on the road. 2-0.
Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs need to end the woes of back-to-back poor performances, and a London Derby will have both sides ready to roar. Expect a tight one, and perhaps a replay. 2-2.
Blackburn vs. Manchester United
It’s fortunate for Blackburn that United played a Europa League match on Thursday, but the Red Devils are too deep and Jose Mourinho has several pieces of silverware on his radar. Manchester United, 2-0.
Sutton United vs. Arsenal
The fairytale ends here, as this is a classic set-up for the Gunners to showcase their might at the expense of a lesser side. Arsenal, 4-0.