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FA Cup: Chelsea, Man Utd set to battle for last QF place

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The eighth and final place in the 2018-19 FA Cup quarterfinals on line the line Monday (2:30 p.m. ET), when Chelsea host Manchester Untied at Stamford Bridge.

[ FA CUP: Crystal Palace, Swansea reach quarterfinals (video) ]

Following their 2-0 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain last Tuesday, the FA Cup stands as Man United’s most only realistic chance at a trophy this season. Given the fact Chelsea are due to play Manchester City — the same Man City that just beat the Blues 6-0 a week ago — in the League Cup final in under two weeks’ time, and the number of rounds standing between the and the Europa League final, the same could perhaps be said for Chelsea as well.

To say this is an important one for both sides would be an understatement.

While their respective seasons have taken very different paths ahead of Monday’s showdown, a battle for fourth place — separated by one point in fourth and sixth — is where United and Chelsea, respectively, find themselves with just over three months left to play.

[ MORE: Emotional funeral for Sala held in his Argentine hometown ]

Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku‘s names could make a rare appearance when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer names his starting lineup, largely due to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial missing out through injuries.

Chelsea were 1-0 victors when the two sides met in last season’s final. Their first meeting this season finished 2-2 at Stamford Bridge back in October, courtesy of Ross Barkley‘s 95th-minute equalizer.

Honest Alexis Sanchez on why Mourinho struggled at Man United

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Alexis Sanchez didn’t beat about the bush when discussing why Jose Mourinho’s time at Manchester United ended abruptly.

Sanchez, 30, spoke with the BBC alongside Ander Herrera before United’s FA Cup last 16 clash at Chelsea on Monday.

Speaking to Spanish reporter Guillem Balague, the Chilean forward gave his extremely honest opinion on why it went wrong for Mourinho.

“I’ll tell you personally. I say things as they are and in my opinion, Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world. In the way that he coaches, how he studies videos, the way he goes about things,” Sanchez said. “But, then within the group there was that feeling that you were in the team then out. Sometimes I didn’t play, then I did, then I didn’t and as a player you lose confidence, each player lost their confidence, do you understand?

“And then an atmosphere was created that was very… confusing. Sometimes I’m playing well and I score a goal and he took me off. And I’d say ‘I love football, I love football.’ I’ve played football since I was five and if I have the ball taken away from me, it’s as if I love my joy.”

In a nutshell: Mourinho changed the players around too much, didn’t explain what he was doing and sucked the confidence out of every single Manchester United player.

Sanchez is saying what we were all thinking and perhaps this kind of honesty will allow the Chilean to move on from the worst period in his career so far.

He has struggled massively at United since Mourinho signed him from Arsenal last January — Sanchez has scored five goals in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils —  and those struggles have got even worse under new caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

However, the former Arsenal star now has a huge opportunity to play regularly as both Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are out injured for a few weeks. Sanchez now has a chance to show he can deliver on a consistent basis but after so many months either injured, or battling back to fitness after a lack of game time, there is a long road ahead for Sanchez.

FA Cup preview: Lampard hopes for upset; Chelsea host Man Utd

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The FA Cup’s fifth round kicks off with some underdogs and finishes with a pair of giants.

That first match, QPR versus Watford at Loftus Road, kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET Friday, with the Championship hosts hoping to overrun Abdoulaye Doucoure and the visiting Hornets.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The weekend was scheduled nicely by the FA, with only one match conflicting with another via a Sunday morning 11 a.m. kickoff.

There are no signs that any of the Premier League sides are taking this lightly, including Pep Guardiola’s claims that Newport County is a more physical side than his City.

There’s a guarantee of at least two non-PL sides in the quarterfinals, and either Chelsea or Manchester United will not be alive for the FA Cup title come Monday evening.

United will have neither Anthony Martial nor Jesse Lingard against a Chelsea side capable of looking unbeatable… or flat-out terrible.

Maybe Frank Lampard will outlast his former team (well, at least the one most often associated with the English midfielder). Derby County leads his side into Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

“I’m not sure how much recent form will matter.

“We are unbeaten (in six) but we’ve got room for improvement,” Lampard said of his Rams. “Brighton are a very strong team, with a really good manager, and it will be a hugely tough challenge for us.”

Full FA Cup fifth round schedule

Friday
QPR v. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET

Saturday
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Derby County — 7:30 am. ET
AFC Wimbledon v. Millwall — 10 a.m. ET
Newport County v. Man City — 12:30 p.m. ET

Sunday
Bristol City v. Wolves — 8 a.m. ET
Doncaster Rovers v. Crystal Palace — 11 a.m. ET
Swansea City v. Brentford — 11 a.m. ET

Monday
Chelsea v. Manchester United — 2:30 p.m. ET

Lingard, Martial to miss weeks for Manchester United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is fortunate to have attacking depth for Manchester United’s February fixtures.

[ MORE: Solskjaer ready for Chelsea ]

Both Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are set to miss Monday’s trip to Chelsea as well as the Feb. 24 visit from Liverpool.

That’ll put even more focus on Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, and Romelu Lukaku, though Solskjaer says prospects like Angel Gomes could help the Red Devils.

Solskjaer even name drops an injured youth player in his description of United’s injury issues.

“Then you are looking at young players, so Mason Greenwood now is the time to step in and he is injured unfortunately, he is out for a couple of weeks as well,” Solskjaer said. “That is just the way the luck goes but Mason will get his chance later on.”

This could push Rashford out wide to put Lukaku up top and Sanchez on the other side, though Mata and Sanchez could man the wings for either of the strikers.

Report: Sanchez, Martial, Lingard questionable v. Chelsea

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If Alexis Sanchez didn’t seem himself on Tuesday evening, there’s a bizarre explanation for that.

According to the Daily Mail in England, while Sanchez was warming up along the sideline in the first half, he unexpectedly collided with assistant referee Fabiano Preti and fell to the turf. Sanchez suffered some sort of leg injury, and although he played on it the rest of the game, he told the Manchester United training staff that he felt pain above one of his knees.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

It’s the latest in what’s been a rough 13 months for Sanchez ever since he joined Man United, where he’s battled through numerous injuries and poor form.

With Sanchez facing a fitness test, he joins the injured Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, who both limped out of Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on Tuesday. The trio now will hope that they can make a comeback for this coming Monday’s highly-anticipated FA Cup match against Chelsea.