By rights this preview should have been produced in the week leading up to 15th February, 2020, but because the FA bent over backwards to the Premier League clubs’ demands for a winter break and the removal of 5th Round replays, it is being produced on a Sunday ahead of mid-week matches.
Mid-week matches for the FA Cup? It’s sacrilege! It’s not that long ago when League matches had to be cancelled to accommodate FA Cup games (this year’s 4th Round). How has the FA allowed its flagship competition to be so easily mal-treated?
Seven hundred and twenty clubs have already fallen by the wayside in this season’s competition, leaving a final 16 clubs to battle it out to be crowned FA Cup winners. Making up their numbers are 10 Premier League clubs, five Championship sides and Portsmouth from EFL Division One.
Portsmouth are involved in the first match of the Round as they take on Arsenal at Fratton Park on Monday night. Portsmouth are yet to get the better of Arsenal in four previous encounters in the FA Cup and it is 10 years since Pompey last appeared in the 5th Round, whilst Arsenal have done so seven times in that period.
All the stats, and the two clubs current League status, suggest this should be a straightforward win for the Gunners. But Portsmouth have won 13 out of their last fifteen competitive fixtures, and with home advantage, maybe a Cupset is on the cards.
Tuesday night sees three more FA Cup 5th Round ties. Championship side Reading host the surprise package of the Premier League, Sheffield United, at the Madejski Stadium. The last time the two sides met in the FA Cup seven years ago, the Royals romped to a 4-0 victory.
Only Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United have appeared in more FA Cup Quarter Finals over the last 10 years than Reading have done so suggesting this will be a very tricky tie for the Blades.
The only other time the two clubs met in the FA Cup was also a 5th Round tie at Bramall Lane, that Sheffield United won courtesy of a solitary Lee Sandford Goal in 1998. The Blades also have recent FA Cup pedigree being as they are the last third tier club to reach the FA Cup Semi-Finals just six years ago.
Chelsea take on runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool in what is the joint most common FA Cup meeting of this 5th Round. The clubs have been drawn together 10 times before in the competition with Chelsea ahead by six wins to four and the two sides are yet to play out a draw in the competition.
Chelsea have the best FA Cup record of all clubs over the last 10 seasons, lifting the Trophy three times during that period including a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the 2012 Final. That season was one of only two that the Reds have progressed beyond the 5th Round in the last 10 years.
The FA Cup stats suggest Chelsea should be victorious but with 34 points between them and Liverpool in the League table, this current season performances suggests the Reds should win.
Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion take on Newcastle United currently struggling to score goals in the Premier League.
This is the fifth time the two clubs have been paired together in the FA Cup and every time so far the games have been played at The Hawthorns. Unsurprisingly, then, West Brom are three wins to one ahead in previous FA Cup meetings.
Take all that together, along with the fact that Newcastle have an awful recent FA Cup record with this being the club’s first 5th Round appearance in 14 years, and all signs point to a Baggies win. Would it even be regarded as a Cupset if they did?
However, under Steve Bruce, Newcastle seem to have a different view on how serious to take the FA Cup, and so this tie is far away from being a foregone conclusion.
Wednesday night sees three more FA Cup 5th Round ties, including the only one to involve two teams where neither has yet lifted the famous Trophy.
Premier League side Leicester City host Birmingham City from the Championship in what looks on paper to be a home banker.
The Foxes’ manager, Brendan Rogers, has a terrific record in knock-out competitions in recent years, and in 10 previous FA Cup meetings between the two sides Birmingham City have only been victorious once …. and that was when the clubs were still respectively known as Leicester Fosse and Small Heath way back in the nineteenth century!
However, Leicester are hitting a poor run of form at exactly the wrong moment and Birmingham City could take advantage of this to cause a Cupset to reach the Quarter Finals for the first time in nine years.
Championship side Sheffield Wednesday host Premier League club and current FA Cup holders Manchester City in the knowledge that in six previous FA Cup encounters the best The Owls have achieved is two draws.
Current form for Wednesday, coupled with Manchester City’s strength and desire to retain the Trophy, would suggest that this is a foregone conclusion. But Manchester City have been fallible in the past against lower league oppositions, although to be fair that has usually been against Wigan Athletic.
Manchester City are looking to become back-to-back FA Cup winners for the first time, but this is the first time the club has even gone as far as the 5th Round whilst defending their title.
Tottenham Hotspur host fellow Premier League side Norwich City which, based on league positions, on paper looks like a straightforward home victory.
However, Spurs’ record against the Canaries in the FA Cup is not good, achieving just one win and losing three times in their previous six encounters. However, the respective clubs recent FA Cup records also point to a Spurs victory, with Norwich not having gone beyond the 5th Round since the 1991-92 season.
The last scheduled FA Cup 5th Round tie pits Championship side Derby County against Premier League club Manchester United, the fourth time they have been paired together in the competition over the last 12 years.
Manchester United triumphed in those four meetings, as they did in the previous four. In fact Derby have only ever been victorious against the Red Devils in the competition back in the nineteenth century when their opponents were still going by the name of Newton Heath.
All FA Cup stats suggest this year’s encounter will be a similar outcome to the last eight meetings, as Manchester United have progressed beyond the 5th Round in each of the last five seasons, whilst the Rams have failed to do so this century.
All 5th Round ties this season have to be decided on the night. With a bit of luck a repeat of last season will happen, where none of the eight ties required neither penalties nor even extra time to resolve them.