Cup fever hits England again as the FA Cup brings together some interesting ties.
Everton v Manchester United
Wayne Rooney’s return to Goodison Park inevitably steals the headlines, but whether United boss Sir Alex Ferguson chooses to risk his temperamental teenager remains to be seen.
The Red Devils boss is bound to have one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League showdown with Italian giants Milan. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Smith could get a run-out allowing Rooney to miss what promises to be an explosive return, for now at least. Darren Fletcher is out after damaging knee ligaments in the derby win over Manchester City. Roy Keane could also be rested.
Everton, meanwhile, are hopeful that the focus on Rooney will kept to a minimum amid fears of FA charges should any crowd trouble occur. Everton go into the game without suspended duo James Beattie and Tim Cahill, while Steve Watson and Li Tie are still out. There are also doubts over Duncan Ferguson (back), James McFadden (thigh) and Leon Osman (knee) – Tony Hibbert though, does return after a ban.
Arsenal v Sheffield United
After their defeat to Manchester United, which left Arsenal out of the championship race, the Gunners will be keen to reach the final and salvage their season with a piece of silverware.
French pair Thierry Henry and Patrick Viera are likely to be rested for Wednesday’s game with Bayern Munich. Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Edu are all missing through injury although Freddie Ljungberg should return.
Neil Warnock and his Sheffield United team will be after revenge following the controversial loss to Arsenal in the 2003 semi-final.
Newcastle v Chelsea
Chelsea go to Newcastle on Sunday to try and keep their quest for the “quad” going. Although any team Jose Mourinho puts out looks likely to be a weakened team after he slated the FA Cup Friday morning.
“I do not respect the FA Cup because in England there is no respect for Chelsea, they don’t value us. We do not get the same rest between games that Manchester and Arsenal enjoy,” rapped an angry Mourinho.
He continued: “I will play the Second team, I do not have supermen.”
Newcastle boss Graeme Souness must surely see this as an excellent chance to beat Chelsea and end a good week for the club, which saw them come from behind and secure a valuable win in the Netherlands over Heerenveen in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.
Lee Bowyer and Amdy Faye are both suspended while Jean-Alain Boumsong (back), Kieron Dyer (virus), and Nicky Butt (ankle) all face late fitness checks.
Totttenham v Nottingham Forest
Tottenham face Championship relegation candidates Nottingham Forest in a repeat of the 1991-cup final.
Having not been beaten, in this competition, by a team outside the top flight in 15 seasons, Spurs will fancy themselves to go on a claim a quarter-final place.
Nottingham Forest have yet to concede a goal in this season FA Cup yet, although that record will be under threat from the likes of England striker Jermain Defoe and Spurs’ new-boy Mido. Gary Megson’s side will be hoping to put on a good showing and take that into their increasingly desperate looking, fight for survival, in the league.
Burnley v Blackburn
Passions will be high in the game at Turf Moor. Bitter rivals Burnley and Blackburn are separated by eight miles, the teams haven’t met too many times in recent years, so an intense atmosphere at this game is certain.
Rovers considerably eased their relegation fears last weekend with a thumping 3-0 victory over Norwich City and are expected to start this game wit the same team. The only doubt is Dominic Matteo who is struggling with a hamstring injury.
Burnley will be looking to make it a hat trick of Premiership scalps this year after disposing of Liverpool in the previous round and knocking Aston Villa out of the League Cup earlier in the season.
In the remaining ties, Fulham travel to Bolton in an all-Premiership clash that will see Bolton chasing their sixth win in seven games. Portuguese striker Ricardo Vaz Te is pushing for a place while Khalilou Fadiga could be recalled.
Fulham, who are looking for their third quarter final in four years in this tournament, go to Lancashire with no fresh injury worries.
Brentford go to St. Mary’s amid a ticket furore that threatens to spiral out of control when the two teams meet. Hundreds of Bees’ fans are expected to travel with out a ticket and many are said to have purchased tickets in the home sections. Southampton have Kevin Phillips fit again and challenging Henri Camera and Peter Crouch for a starting place. Nigel Quashie is cup-tied while Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Le-Saux are to be rested.
Charlton face championship side Leicester at The Valley, The Addicks hope to have Bryan Hughes, Jerome Thomas, Jonathan Fortune, Francis Jeffers and Mark Fish fit after a fortnight without a game.
However, striker Kevin Lisbie will not be available for selection as he starts the first game of a three-match ban. Leicester, are boosted by near fully fit squad.
Leicester manager Craig Levein is set to welcome back Gareth Williams, Alan Maybury and Matt Heath to his squad after they all missed last week’s defeat at Ipswich. The only absentees for The Foxes are Nathan Blake, Lee Morris and Jason Wilcox.