As football fans worldwide continue to familiarize themselves with the “new normal” and viewing the beautiful game without spectators in the stadiums at least we can look forward to some sort of traditionalism as the worlds most famous cup competition resumes after much doubt over its place on the reshuffled football cal’endar.
Sadly, there has been no fairy-tale story of a famous FA Cup run to this stage of the competition for any lower league sides with Derby County’s exit to Manchester United back in March signalling the end of any such hopes as eight Premier League clubs get set to stand their ground in the quarter finals this weekend.
While there may be no lower league representation which always makes for a good story, a number of the eight remaining sides have gone a long time without lifting this famous old trophy and will have high hopes of taking advantage of a glorious cup opportunity in these unfamiliar circumstances.
Sheffield United last won the FA Cup in 1925, 1955 was Newcastle’s last success while Norwich and Leicester City have NEVER won the FA Cup and the current fanbase would not have been around for their last FA Cup final appearance. Of the other four remaining sides, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea have won the cup a combined 39 times.
NORWICH CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED – Saturday, 5.30pm – BBC1
This years FA Cup quarter finals gets underway at Carrow Road where all eyes will be on the home sides team selection given their league woes at present. The Canaries currently lie six points from safety and with a goal difference of -31 from 31 games many are already consigning City to the Championship next term.
Will Daniel Farke rest players in the hope Norwich can find some sort of form before the curtain comes down on their time in the Premier League or will he put out his strongest XI in the hope of a potential FA Cup upset sparking Norwich into life in the league?
It must be said the German coach doesn’t seem too optimistic of a positive outcome either way having been quoted as saying the following after his teams recent defeat to Everton:
“We are not naive. We can judge this in a proper way. We are in two competitions, the FA Cup and the league. It’s not realistic for us to stay in this league, it’s not realistic for us to stay in the FA Cup, but as long as we have a chance, we try to be successful in both competitions.”
Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may also be tempted to rotate given his in-form Red Devils head to Brighton on Tuesday still very much in the hunt for Champions League qualification next season.
Unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions, a career record for the Norwegian boss, the return to fitness of Paul Pogba combined with the impressive form of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial has seen United spark into life and begin to display signs of the old Manchester United so feared and revered across England and Europe.
Given his side are in such a good vain of form and partnerships such as Fernandes & Pogba and Rashford & Martial seem to not only be growing by the game but now beginning to flourish it could be seen as a major risk to risk the high levels of confidence within the dressing room by making too many alterations to the starting XI against Norwich.
Looking back at the United XI which lined out in the last round away to Tranmere Rovers it’s almost unrecognizable to the Reds side we’ve seen since the resumption of football yet that team still had more than enough quality to see off Tranmere 6-0 on the day and while Norwich City are unlucky to roll over in such a manner their defensive record this season simply will not do here.
Only Aston Villa have shipped more goals in the top-flight this season while the Canaries have only managed to notch 25 goals in 31 league games, the worst goal scoring record in the division. One dreads to think where they might be without front man Teemu Pukki who has scored almost half of those with 11 goals in 31 league appearances. Again, should Norwich decide to rest such key players as Pukki you’d give them even less chance than the already slim odds of causing any sort of an upset against the high-flying Red Devils this weekend.
In truth, when I looked up the latest outright betting for this game I was absolutely shocked to see United available at 1/2, that looks extremely good value to me even if Ole opts to ring the changes.
BEST BET: United to win 1/2
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Manchester United (to beat Norwich), Manchester City (to defeat Newcastle), Wolves (to defeat Aston Villa) & Barcelona (to defeat Celta Vigo) – €20 returns €106.92
- Previews to Sunday’s three remaining FA Cup Quater-finals will be available on this sports blog.
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