The FA Cup quarter-finals contain a mixture of clubs from the Premier League, Sky Bet Championship and Sky Bet League One as six sides go into battle on March 9.
Sheffield United look to progress into the semi-finals as they take a break from their play-off push to take on Charlton Athletic, who remain rooted to the bottom of the league above but with four games in hand after a number of postponements.
Meanwhile, Sunderland will be hoping to continue their second cup run this season after losing out to Manchester City in their 3-1 final defeat in the Capital One Cup. Meanwhile, Hull will be looking to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 1930.
There's also the small matter of Manchester City against Wigan in a repeat of last year's final, where the Latics won their David vs. Goliath match in a 1-0 win at Wembley.
With plenty at stake in the famous competition, who will get their chance for a jaunt up Wembley Way in the semi-finals?
|Date||Time||Fixture||TV Info||Live Stream|
|March 9||12 p.m. GMT, 8 a.m. ET||Sheffield United vs. Charlton Athletic||BT Sport||BT Sport app|
|March 9||2 p.m. GMT, 10 a.m. ET||Hull City vs. Sunderland||ITV 1||ITV Player|
|March 9||4.05 p.m. GMT, 12.05 a.m. ET||Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic||BT Sport||BT Sport app|
Sheffield United vs. Charlton
If there's one thing to make any FA Cup quarter-final complete, it's the sight of a couple lower league sides looking to, against all odds, scrap it out for a place at Wembley Stadium.
As both sides cast their respective league form aside, the match at Bramall Lane promises to be a fast and frantic affair. The hosts look to put themselves one step closer to their first FA Cup win since 1925, while Charlton will be hoping to progress to see a chance of their first win in this competition in 67 years.
United showed real guts in the last round as they came from one goal down to win 3-1 at home to Nottingham Forest, with two late goals sealing the Blades' progression into this round.
However, they'll come up against a well-travelled Charlton side who have won their last three FA Cup matches away from the Valley, notching victories against Oxford United, Huddersfield Town and a 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday, the Blades' fierce rivals.
As kick-off approaches, Sheffield United tweeted of the last thing both sides will see before they step onto the hallowed turf in the Steel City:
The messages that await Blades players as they leave the tunnel pic.twitter.com/kmmyBHQ9mp— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) March 9, 2014
With one lower league representative guaranteed a place in the semi-finals at Wembley, both sides will be looking to make sure that it's them who take on English football's big boys as the Football League's 71 other clubs watch on with envy.
Who will win?
On the back of their 3-0 defeat at Leicester City last time out, it will be up to manager Chris Powell to rally his Charlton crop and make sure their latest loss is long forgotten as they travel to Sheffield.
The side have shipped 41 goals in their 30 league matches and will go into the game looking not only to progress into the next round but also see a springboard to safety present itself with the side sitting four points adrift of 21st-placed Millwall.
United are in a good run of form, though, unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions with help from Chris Porter's four goals.
The striker has been excellent for the Blades this season and leads their scoring charts with nine goals.
Charlton's woes look set to continue if they fail to handle Porter, as well as defender Conor Coady, who has scored four goals following his loan move from Liverpool in the summer.
Prediction: Sheffield United 2-0 Charlton Athletic
Hull City vs. Sunderland
The Tigers and the Black Cats will go to battle at the KC Stadium as both sides sit just whiskers away from a place in the semi-final.
Hull have done the league double over Sunderland already this season, with a 1-0 win at home and a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light to their name. The latter contest saw recent recruits Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both score.
Per Philip Buckingham the Hull Daily Mail, the hosts will be without Long and Jelavic this time around as the pair are ineligible, with left-back Maynor Figueroa out after a busy week with Honduras.
It will be an emotional tie for City manager Steve Bruce, too, after his spell at Sunderland was cut short in November 2011 due to a poor run of results, despite signing a new three-year deal just six months earlier.
Bruce spoke with Buckingham of the Hull Daily Mail about his managerial counterpart Gus Poyet, as well as the luck needed to see Hull reach Wembley:
As we’ve seen last week in the cup final, they did terrifically well for an hour. The big thing for Gus now is that he’s got two games rearranged and if he goes further it’s three. It becomes congested but once you get to this stage, I’m sure Gus is like myself, you think why not? We’re in the quarter-finals and there’s only eight of us left.
When your name’s written on it, you want that little bit of luck that everyone needs. You’ve always got a chance. If you could get to a semi-final, no disrespect, you want to avoid the big ones. I’m sure Sheffield United or Charlton would be looking at us and Sunderland and thinking they’d want us. The one you all want to avoid is the big ones. I’m sure there will be one there. Who knows? That’s the cup for you, that’s the beauty of it.
The absence of Long and Jelavic could mean Sone Aluko being partnered with either Yannick Sagbo or Matty Fryatt as Hull look to make it three wins on the bounce against Sunderland this season. Meanwhile, Poyet is facing the benefit of a fully fit squad and is boosted by the return of striker Steven Fletcher.
The omission of the two regular frontmen could contribute to Hull's downfall as they take on Sunderland, who will be buoyed by their display against City.
Who will win?
However, Aluko and Sagbo—should they start together—possess an excellent level of pace between them and will be sure to put the Black Cats' back four under serious pressure, with John O'Shea and Wes Brown looking to be tasked with the responsibility of keeping the pair at bay.
Sunderland have their own pace man, though, as proved by Fabio Borini's goal at Wembley, and he will look to make sure the Hull defence has a torrid afternoon of their own.
However, having beaten Sunderland twice already this season and yet to concede a goal to their counterparts, Hull will be favourites. With form on their side, they will bring the club's first trip to the rebuilt Wembley Stadium.
Prediction: Hull City 3-0 Sunderland
Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic
Last season's 1-0 win for Wigan showed that every underdog can have its day and, with a repeat of the fixture set to take place at the Etihad Stadium, the Latics will have to draw on their Wembley experiences to win at City.
Ben Watson's late header won the trophy for Wigan, but they face a very different City side who have thrived under Manuel Pellegrini this season and, last weekend, bagged their first piece of silverware of the year.
Both clubs have different management set-ups compared to last year's final, with Pellegrini's entrance adding to City's title aspirations and Wigan looking to challenge for a play-off spot and hopeful Premier League return under new boss Uwe Rosler.
Per The Guardian's Paul Wilson, Rosler owes much of his managerial success to City after struggling to get a job despite learning his trade in Norway but moving his family back to the north-west to manage back in England:
It was a calculated risk but it turned into a massive gamble because for the first six months I didn't even receive a reply, let alone an interview. Walsall were the only club to thank me for my application but I didn't get the job. I felt very frustrated and wondered if I had done the right thing but I was able to stay involved in football by working at the City academy.
I could study the structure they had, learn from their coaches and watch a lot of youth-team football. I felt I used my time well and that probably laid the foundation for me to succeed.
Rosler continued, citing his love for City's former ground, Maine Road, while understanding the need for a move to the Etihad Stadium:
It was a privilege to play in front of the Kippax when the fans were singing my name. When I played there Maine Road was a stadium I absolutely adored. But taking over the new stadium gave City new possibilities. It was a fantastic chance, it has made it a totally different club. There is a different atmosphere at the Etihad.
I'm not saying it is better or worse but City needed to get to the next level and to do that they needed a new stadium. City can attract the best players in the world now. When I was there it was an old-fashioned England ground and still a club for local people. Now, and I don't mean this in a negative way, they are a global player. City are known all over the world.
Rosler will have to set sentiment aside as his Wigan side travel, as underdogs, to take on the European superpower of the Citizens.
This season's Europa League contenders have already seen off two Premier League teams in this year's FA Cup, after 2-1 victories against Crystal Palace and Cardiff City set the side up for their quarter-final grudge match with City.
They come up against a team who have scored 12 goals in this competition so far this season, with just Watford's two-goal haul at the Etihad Stadium remaining as the only goals conceded by the hosts.
Who will win?
Wigan will have to watch out for Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, who both scored a double in their third-round replay against Blackburn Rovers, as well as Sergio Aguero, who hit a hat-trick against the Hornets to secure their 4-2 victory in the fourth round.
The visitors remain unbeaten in their last four and have conceded just two goals, highlighting the resilience of the Latics' back line.
City's slick passing style and adventure will show their class, however, and despite Wigan's excellent attacking displays of late—which have seen nine goals scored in their last four outings—the elite nature of the Citizens' squad will prove too much for an eager Wigan.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Wigan Athletic
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