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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019

Man United's biggest game left this season and more talking points ahead of this weekend's action

Plus, departing Arsene Wenger set for hero’s reception at the Emirates.

Image: Adam Davy

Updated at 19.39

1. Man United’s biggest game left this season

FOR MOST CLUBS, to be second going into the final weeks of the season having finished sixth the previous campaign would be regarded as a hugely positive development.

Yet Manchester United are not ‘most clubs’ and have spent the kind of astronomical fees in the transfer market that leads to expectation that silverware will follow.

A loss in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham this weekend would be a significant blow to the Jose Mourinho project.

In addition, in comparison with their League Cup and Europa League triumphs last year, ending this season trophyless might seem like a backward step to some fans.

For Spurs, the game is of similar importance. Since Mauricio Pochettino has taken over, their overall points tally has improved with each successive campaign, however this season is set to be an anomaly, and with Chelsea only five points behind them, they are not yet even guaranteed a top-four spot.

An FA Cup triumph would maintain this sense of progress under Pochettino and likely decrease chances of player unrest and complaints about the club’s wage policy in the summer.

Tottenham have already beaten United once already at Wembley this season and whether they can repeat that feat might depend on how Mourinho and the Man United players approach the game.

Will Paul Pogba start? Will we see the Man United side that beat City, or the team that so meekly surrendered the title amid a 1-0 loss to bottom-of-the-table West Brom last week? If the latter turns out to be the case, then Harry Kane and co will surely enjoy an easy passage to the final.

2. Can Southampton cause an upset?

Of all the teams left in the FA Cup, Southampton are by some distance the least fancied side left in the competition.

The club would gladly swap their place in the final four in exchange for guaranteed Premier League survival.

Their opponents are Chelsea, the same side they came desperately close to beating in the Premier League last week and who will be hoping to end a disappointing season on a high.

Yet the Saints should not be entirely written off — if would not be unheard of for a club in their position to ultimately prevail, as Wigan fans will tell you.

3. Man City aim to make history


In a way, the rest of Manchester City’s season doesn’t particularly matter.

Having been knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as securing the Premier League title and League Cup, there is no more silverware left to challenge for.

Yet it would still be a surprise if Man City’s standards drop considerably for their game with Swansea on Sunday.

A coach of Pep Guardiola’s renowned intensity is unlikely to allow his side to develop a lax attitude now the league is won.

In addition, the Etihad outfit still have the chance to make history, by achieving the highest points tally ever for a Premier League team and consolidate their legacy as a great English side.

4. West Brom’s relegation could be confirmed

West Brom could be relegated for a record-equalling fourth time if they lose this weekend.

A defeat by Liverpool coupled with Swansea earning a point against Man City would end any mathematical possibility of survival.

They have at least shown a bit of spirit since caretaker boss Darren Moore came in and have already matched the number of games they won during Alan Pardew’s 18-match stint (one) thanks to last week’s impressive victory at Old Trafford.

It is almost certainly too little too late, however, and Saturday’s clash with the Reds could prove to be the final nail in the coffin.

5. Wenger set for hero’s reception

Now that Arsene Wenger has finally done what many have been urging the French manager to do for quite some time in announcing his impending Arsenal departure, expect a considerable change in atmosphere at the Emirates.

Following months of discontent and even apathy among a considerable portion of the club’s support, the mood at the Emirates will surely shift into a more sentimental and celebratory atmosphere when Arsenal host West Ham on Sunday.

For all their recent woes, Wenger is still likely to be remembered as the North London side’s greatest ever manager, achieving countless impressive feats while revolutionising British football in the process with his innovative ideas about diet and training methods et cetera.

The Gunners’ players, however, cannot afford to get swept up in this tide of emotion.

The club have a Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid to prepare for, with a Champions League place and fitting end to Wenger’s tenure still a distinct possibility.

Sunday’s match will consequently serve as important preparation for Thursday’s crunch first-leg.

Premier League


West Brom v Liverpool (12.30)
Watford v Crystal Palace (15.00)


Arsenal v West Ham (13.30)
Stoke v Burnley (13.30)
Man City v Swansea (16.30)


Everton v Newcastle (20.00)

FA Cup


Man United v Tottenham (17.15)


Chelsea v Southampton (15.00)

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Paul Fennessy

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