1. Down to the last four in the FA Cup
FOUR POINTS SEPARATE Chelsea and Tottenham at the top of the Premier League table with six matches to go, but this weekend it’s all about the FA Cup for the London rivals.
Putting the title race to one side, it’s a trip to Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening where one club will earn the right to meet either Arsenal or Manchester City in the final on 27 May.
Spurs are undoubtedly the form team going into the last-four tie. Since exiting the Europa League at the hands of Gent in February, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have won eight matches on the trot — scoring 24 goals (an average of three per-game) and conceding just four.
Contrastingly, Chelsea looked distinctly out-of-sorts in their defeat to Manchester United last Sunday. The good news is they look likely to welcome back Thibaut Courtois and Marcos Alonso, but Gary Cahill will miss out after being treated for a small kidney stone.
2. It’s now or never for Boro
More than a month has passed since Middlesbrough took the decision to sack manager Aitor Karanka in the hope that it would spark a reaction. Unfortunately, since then they’ve picked up just two points from five matches under interim head coach Steve Agnew.
Sitting directly above bottom club Sunderland — who look truly dead-and-buried at this stage — time is running out for Boro if they are to stage a late surge out of the drop zone.
Scoring goals has been one of their biggest issues and they’ve found the back of the net just four times in seven-and-a-half hours of Premier League football.
But up next are 16th-placed Bournemouth this Saturday and the aforementioned Black Cats on Wednesday, so you would like to think they will be treating both as must-win games.
3. Man United must soldier on without talisman
It was agricultural and laboured at times against Anderlecht, but Manchester United eventually picked up the required result in Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg.
The win came at a cost, however, as top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic went down clutching his knee as the teams were about to get set for extra-time. The Swede is expected to be ruled out for the season, meaning there won’t be a homecoming Europa League final in Stockholm for him if United progress past Celta Vigo.
He’s also out of this Saturday’s Premier League outing away to Bournemouth, so teenage prodigy Marcus Rashford is likely to continue to benefit as the main striker. With a game in hand on city rivals Man City, United can close the gap on the Champions League spots to a single point at Dean Court.
4. Both Wenger and Guardiola could do with a cup final
Out of the title race and facing the prospect of a trophyless season, Arsenal and Man City go head-to-head in the second of this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final ties.
The question marks over Arsene Wenger’s future continue to loom large. With the Gunners now down in sixth place, there’s a real possibility they are set to miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time under the Frenchman.
Opposite number Pep Guardiola’s situation isn’t quite as gloomy but he is the victim of his own success in that achievements at previous clubs mean expectations levels sky high.
City’s first FA Cup success since 2011 would certainly be some consolation so both of these managers will definitely be up for this come Sunday.
5. Benteke returns to Anfield
It is over to Anfield Road for the final game of the weekend, with the revitalised Crystal Palace the visitors.
Both clubs are in really good form at present. Liverpool are unbeaten in their last seven league games with five wins and two draws, while Palace have recorded five victories, one draw and a defeat during the same period.
After a poor start to life under Sam Allardyce, the Eagles have since turned a corner with on-loan Reds defender Mamadou Sakho excellent at the heart of their defence.
The Frenchman is ineligible to play against his parent club, but former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke will get the chance to stick it to Jurgen Klopp — the man who offloaded him last summer.
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