6 Key FA Cup Battles to Watch This Weekend
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The Premier League takes a backseat this weekend, as most of the top clubs are on FA Cup duty.
After a midweek fixture list that saw the return of the Champions League, there are some clubs who will need to step up to the plate in the FA Cup.
Manchester United haven't won the cup since 2004, and Sir Alex Ferguson will want success this time around.
Wayne Rooney scored in their fourth round tie with Fulham as United eased into the fifth round with a 4-1 win.
He'll be a key figure this weekend if United are to overcome Reading and progress to the quarter finals.
Chelsea are another Premier League side who will be gunning for glory because, to be quite honest, the Premier League title isn't coming to Stamford Bridge.
They struggled in their first encounter with Brentford, who they play again this Sunday to try to get to the next round.
Given their current inconsistent form, Brentford will go to Stamford Bridge with the belief that they can get a result, and if that happens, surely Rafael Benitez's position will be untenable?
There are some interesting matches this weekend, so without any further ado, let's run through the six fixtures to keep an eye on.
Saturday: Arsenal vs Blackburn (kick-off 3pm GMT)
A late Theo Walcott goal secured a win against Brighton. Will he come up trumps against Blackburn?
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In the last round of the FA Cup, Arsenal were lucky to get through against a plucky Brighton side.
It was only a late Theo Walcott goal that saw the Gunners go through into the next round.
When it comes to league form, Arsenal have been consistent, rather than spectacular, of late.
They've had a couple of single goal victories in their last couple of games, and while it's not exactly been the free-flowing football we've come to know and love Arsenal for, it's earning points, which is the most important thing.
If football matches were decided on paper, Arsenal would be overwhelming favourites for this tie.
However, Arsenal have a vital Champions League match against Bayern Munich next Tuesday, so it wouldn't surprise me if Arsene Wenger fields a weakened side against Blackburn.
To say that Blackburn have had a tumultuous couple of years would be an understatement.
Their fans have probably lost count of the amount of managers that have come and gone since the Venkys took control of the club.
Over the course of the season so far, Blackburn's league form hasn't been great, and they'll be hoping that the FA Cup can provide them with a distraction from league business.
Arsenal's defence isn't exactly the strongest, so Blackburn will hope that the likes of Colin Kazim-Richards and goal-machine Jordan Rhodes can cause problems for the Gunners.
This match will be interesting and it will probably end up being a close game that's decided by a late goal.
For me, Arsenal have just enough strength in depth to see off Blackburn's challenge, but it won't be easy.
Prediction: Arsenal win
Saturday: Oldham vs Everton (kick-off 6pm GMT)
Will this finally be the year that David Moyes wins a trophy with Everton?
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Saturday's late kick-off sees Oldham host their second FA Cup tie in succession against a club from Merseyside when Everton come calling.
Oldham saw Liverpool off 3-2 in the last round of the FA Cup in what was a stunning result.
Even beating Liverpool wasn't enough to save Paul Dickov's job, and he ended up subsequently leaving Oldham.
Oldham have been in such poor league form that their FA Cup run might have papered over the cracks.
They are really struggling at the minute, and if I was their manager, I'd prioritise the league over the cup.
In any case, their 3-2 win over Liverpool might have been the peak of this current run, because it's highly unlikely that they'll beat Everton.
So far this season, David Moyes has already sent out a couple of strong statements of intent in the FA Cup, by fielding strong sides against both Cheltenham and Bolton.
Although they ultimately came up short at Old Trafford last week, there's absolutely no question that Everton are a better side than their league position suggests.
If they'd been able to turn some of their draws in to victories, they might have even been challenging for the title.
This weekend, they should be far too strong for Oldham, and it would be very surprising if Everton failed to make the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Everton win
Sunday: Chelsea vs Brentford (kick-off 12pm GMT: 4th Round Replay)
Brentford celebrated after holding Chelsea last time out. Can they dump the Blues on Sunday?
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Chelsea and Brentford will go head-to-head on Sunday in a replay to determine who will go through to the next round.
One way or another, the tie will be decided even if extra-time and penalties are needed.
It's open to debate whether or not Brentford played above their level in the first match, or if Chelsea underperformed.
The League One side were more than a match for a team who, let's remember, are the reigning European champions.
Uwe Rosler's side are more than capable of causing problems for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, especially when you consider Chelsea's poor home results against QPR and Southampton recently.
Big Clayton Donaldson will cause a lot of problems for the Chelsea defence if he's given the service, and there are other weaknesses in the Chelsea arsenal for Brentford to expose.
For example, they could always just give Fernando Torres as much possession as possible!
All joking aside, Chelsea are not the force they once were, and teams are no longer intimidated by them, or by playing at Stamford Bridge.
They have a Europa League tie tonight in Russia, and they'll have a job on their hands preparing for, and competing in, both ties.
It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Brentford sent Chelsea crashing out of the FA Cup on Sunday lunchtime to pile even more pressure on Rafael Benitez and the underperforming, overpaid Chelsea players.
Prediction: Brentford win
Sunday: Manchester City vs Leeds United (kick-off 2pm GMT)
Can Neil Warnock mastermind another win over one of the Premier League's top four?
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Sunday's match at the Etihad will undoubtedly be the tie of the round as Leeds United make the short trip to Manchester to play the reigning Premier League champions.
The hosts look as though they'll struggle to retain their Premier League crown this season, and the FA Cup is now their only realistic chance of winning a trophy this season.
They struggled to overcome a resilient Stoke side in the last round, and they won't find it any easier this Sunday.
City have to get off to a flying start and assert themselves in the early stages of the match.
I wouldn't be shocked if Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez all started the game, because they're important players who have proven time and again that they can deliver.
Yes, City had a bad day last Saturday, but sometimes that just happens.
It doesn't make the players bad or mean that the manager is clueless, it's just one of those things that happens, and Sunday's match will show us the kind of character that the City staff have.
If they think they'll have it easy, then they've got another thing coming.
Neil Warnock might not be the most popular man in football, especially among certain sections of his own support, but he's a great manager and motivator.
His team had no right to beat Spurs in the last round, but on the day, Leeds did enough to beat the Londoners and progress in the competition.
Leeds might have lost Luciano Becchio to Norwich, but they've brought in Steve Morison, and he'll be a massive threat along with Ross McCormack and the polarising figure of El Hadji Diouf.
There's enough experience in the Leeds team to cause problems for City who cannot afford to underestimate their Championship opponents.
As far as the result goes, City should have enough to see off their opponents, but they might need a replay to do it.
Prediction: Score draw
Sunday: Huddersfield vs Wigan (kick-off 3.55pm GMT)
Mark Robins' first game in charge could see Huddersfield move in to the next round of the FA Cup
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The last of Sunday's cup fixtures pits two of the least fancied teams left in the competition against each other in the battle for a quarterfinal place when Huddersfield host Wigan.
The Terriers go in to the match after announcing Mark Robins as their new manager earlier today.
Huddersfield have been without a manager since they sacked Simon Grayson last month and Robins has done an excellent job at Coventry, so it seems like they are the perfect match for each other.
Robins' Coventry team played good football and there's a fair chance he'll want to do the same at Huddersfield.
Having said that, given their league position—they're currently 18th in the Championship—he might sacrifice that in favour of getting results by any means necessary.
Whenever a new manager comes in, it seems to lift a club and the Huddersfield players will want to give their new boss the perfect start by progressing to the quarterfinals.
Robins' opposite number, Roberto Martinez, will want exactly the same thing.
If you take FA Cup games out of consideration, Wigan haven't won a game since 24th November.
That's a really poor run, and when you look at their fixtures over the next few weeks, it's not going to get any easier.
Wigan have to play Reading, Liverpool and Manchester City in the next 3 weeks, so a win in the FA Cup, and the quarterfinal place that goes with it, might be all the Wigan fans have to celebrate in the next month or so.
Both teams are quite similar in the way that they play, so this result could really be down to the toss of a coin.
For me, Huddersfield will come up just short over the 90 minutes, leaving Roberto Martinez to celebrate.
Prediction: Wigan win
Monday: Manchester United vs Reading (kick-off 8pm GMT)
David de Gea was sensational against Madrid. Is that the turning point for him?
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Manchester United host Reading on Monday night in the final FA Cup match of the weekend.
United go in to the game on the back of a very good 1-1 draw against Real Madrid last night in the Champions League.
On a night where the media and fans were salivating about Van Persie and Ronaldo, or Mourinho and Ferguson, they left remembering one man—David de Gea.
The young Spaniard had one of his best games for United last night.
He pulled off some unbelievable saves and he showed why Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him in the first place.
It was an excellent performance, highlighted by the save in the picture to the left, and we can only hope that the young man gains some confidence from the way he played last night.
In FA Cup terms, United comfortably saw off Fulham in the last round, with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez among the goals.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Mexican star starts the game against Reading on Monday to rest Rooney or Van Persie ahead of, with the greatest of respect to Reading, more important matches than this one.
United can't take things for granted against Reading though.
Brian McDermott's team have been in great form of late.
They're picking up points and scoring goals, which must be a relief for everyone at the club.
In Jimmy Kebe, they have someone who can cause Patrice Evra and Rafael problems all night long, so he'll need to be watched carefully.
Just like the man who's almost become Reading's version of United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer—Adam Le Fondre.
Le Fondre claims he's happy being a sub, but he can't be considering the form he's in.
If the game is close as it enters the last 20 minutes, don't be surprised if Le Fondre pops up with a goal to stun United.
Because this game is at Old Trafford, my head says United will win and progress to the last eight.
Prediction: Manchester United