Once again the FA Cup dominates the weekend’s fixtures, the pick of the ties being a repeat of last year’s final, Chelsea travelling to Highbury to face last year’s winners Arsenal.
Chelsea have never won an FA Cup match at Highbury and will have to turn in an excellent performance if they are to overturn an Arsenal team currently in devastating form.
The Gunner’s Cup run so far has seen them play Oxford United, Conference side Farnborough Town and title rivals Manchester United. It was in the last round in an ill-tempered game at Old Trafford that Arsene Wenger made a clear statement of intent dispatching Sir Alex Ferguson’s men 2-0, with goals from Edu and Wiltord.
Chelsea have had to contend with Middlesbrough, Shrewsbury Town and Stoke City in order to make it to the sixth round, but have turned in good attacking displays in all games.
Chelsea’s last victory over Arsenal was in a League Cup match in November 1998, when Claudio Ranieri’s men ran out 5-0 winners, although Arsene Wenger fielded a somewhat weakened side that night.
Arsenal have a Champion’s League game against Roma next week, so some players may be rested, but Wenger still has a formidable squad of players to choose from. Deadly marksman Thierry Henry could be one of the players starting on the bench, due to a niggling calf injury, while Dennis Bergkamp may alsobe used sparingly, if at all.
Definitely unavailable is Ashley Cole, who has a hernia, and Ukranian Oleg Luzhny who is suffering from a calf injury.
Chelsea hope to welcome back Emmanuel Petit, an FA Cup winner in his time at Arsenal, Frenchman Marcel Desailly and Graeme Le Saux allof whom have been out with minor injuries.
Also in the sixth round, Sheffield United take on Leeds in a game which Blades fans will be hoping for a repeat of November’s Worthington Cup third round game when a late Peter Ndlovu goal gave Sheffield United the win.
Elsewhere, Wolves manager Dave Jones has a score to settle with his old club Southampton, but the journey to St. Mary’s is likely to be made more difficult by the absence of captain Paul Ince, and FA Cup goal hero George Ndah.
Finally, the clash between Watford and Burnley, at Vicarage Road, promises to be a physical encounter for the two First Division hopefuls.
The only Premiership fixture of the weekend sees Liverpool, who are likely to be in buoyant mood after their Worthington Cup win, taking on Bolton Wanderers, who are scratching for points in 17th place.