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FA Cup fifth round: 10 things to look out for this weekend

first_imgTen things to look out for this weekend Nigel Adkins plays the peacemaker in struggling Hull City’s civil war Reuse this content Share on Messenger • Ryan Mason forced to retire from football after head injury• Football League: Sessegnon and January arrivals keep Fulham’s dreaming3) Blackman faces tall task of keeping out LeicesterJamal Blackman does not turn 25 until October but already has quite the CV, and doubtless a trophy cabinet to match. The 6ft6in Sheffield United goalkeeper, on loan from Chelsea, picked up a Champions League winners’ medal in 2012, after being part of Roberto Di Matteo’s successful squad in Munich. The same year he lifted the FA Youth Cup with Chelsea and last year was part of the Wycombe Wanderers team that ran Tottenham almightily close in a 4-3 defeat at White Hart Lane in this competition. Since progressing through the Chelsea academy, he has been loaned to Middlesbrough, Östersunds and beyond. Most importantly, he has impressed for the Blades this season and another strong display on Friday night, when they travel to Leicester looking to shutout Kelechi Iheanacho and co on home turf, will only enhance his development. BF• Sheffield United 2-1 Leeds United: Sharp at the double• David Squires on LDN, also home of the beatables4) Has Sanchez created a Pogba problem? José Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba has become a simmering problem for Manchester United. Subbed off in his last two starts, both defeats, benched in the game between that, a 2-0 home stroll past Huddersfield, has an £89m signing become dispensable? A suggestion made by L’Equipe on Thursday was that Pogba holds regrets about re-joining United in the summer of 2016. Pogba played his best football on the left of a midfield trio for Juventus but Alexis Sánchez’s arrival on the left wing has Mourinho reluctant to leave that side of his defence unprotected. Sánchez’s demands to play every game, including cup matches, caused problems with Arsène Wenger, and whether Mourinho is similarly indulgent at Huddersfield will be telling. And where might that leave Pogba? From a choice of left midfield, sitting deeper or substitute, Pogba’s favourite position seems the least likely Mourinho option. Resting Pogba altogether from action at the Kirklees Stadium might be the pragmatic, expedient decision. JB• Mourinho’s stodgy, unstructured Manchester United are labouring Twitter Share via Email 5) A tie both teams will be happy to lose?In an episode of the criminally under-rated sit-com Malcolm In The Middle entitled Water Park, the titular character’s older brother, Francis, incurs the wrath of his Marlin Academy superior Commandant Spangler when the military veteran discovers he has been letting him win at pool and is in fact an accomplished hustler. To cut a long and convoluted story short, the pair end up in a titanic battle, featuring a dizzying array of outrageous trick-shots, to see who can lose each frame of 8-ball in the most spectacular fashion. While we are not suggesting that either West Brom or Southampton would deliberately tank their chances of advancing to this season’s FA Cup quarter-finals, it is this scene – minus the skill and technique – that springs to mind while pondering what might unfold between these two relegation-threatened Premier League sides when they face each other this weekend. BG• What difference do West Brom think sacking boardroom suits will make?• Corbyn on racism in football, Arsenal’s ‘library’ and pricey Freddos6) Are Conte’s eyes on FA Cup prize? If Antonio Conte actually wants to stay in the Chelsea job – and the outward signs are that he is not bothered either way – then Monday’s 3-0 victory over West Brom gave welcome respite. With reports of Luis Enrique being a shoo-in for his role, the FA Cup, should he last as long as May, could be an ideal way to wave off to those fans who still sing his name in the Stamford Bridge stands. For a manager of such standing, it is curious that Conte is still yet to celebrate victory in a knockout competition. His team selection against Hull might indicate how serious he might be about breaking that duck, though with Barcelona next week in mind, Friday is almost certainly a night for the fringe performers. The likes of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley, players whose presence at Chelsea appears to bemuse their boss, seem likely to be given a low-key chance to shine against Championship strugglers. JB • Giroud the well-groomed, half-speed Costa, looks an ideal fit• Conte vows to fight job speculation ‘to the end’ Share on Twitter features Twitter Share on LinkedIn Pinterest 7) A Carvalhal reunion at HillsboroughSwansea’s surprise managerial appointment, Carlos Carvalhal, gets a quick return to his former stomping ground of Hillsborough, where he will stand in the adjacent technical area to his former club’s equally surprising choice of successor, Jos Luhukay. Sheffield Wednesday’s new manager had not got off to the best of starts, but a maiden league win against Derby County on Tuesday night will have silenced any hoots of disapproval from Owls fans. Lucas João scored either side of half-time in that win, prompting Derby manager Gary Rowett to describe him as unplayable. A peripheral figure in Wednesday’s squad during Carvalhal’s reign, the 24-year-old appears to have hit his straps at exactly the right time to show his former manager exactly what he can do. BG• Swansea owners: ‘We’ve made mistakes. But unfair to say we haven’t invested’ England friendlies with Qatar on cards after FA agrees partnership Read more Facebook Share on WhatsApp Calvin Andrew celebrates against Millwall during the FA Cup fourth-round replay. Photograph: Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images Topics Pinterest Despite his team’s troubles, Conte remains popular with fans at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Craig Mercer/CameraSport Read more Facebook Twitter Share on Facebook Alexis Sánchez does not like being rested, as Arsène Wenger found. Photograph: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images Pinterest Facebook Share on Pinterest 8) City an unwelcome distraction for WiganWigan have wobbled since toppling West Ham in the previous round, losing to Blackpool and Southend so the visit of Manchester City – although a free hit – is the last thing Paul Cook’s promotion chasers need. The Liverpudlian manager joked this week that he has asked the Football Association whether they can tackle City with 14 men. After hitting seven past Oxford before Christmas, they were seven points clear of third place but now have Blackburn Rovers breathing down their necks. These kind of games tend to go one of two ways; they either galvanise a team before the run-in or act as a distraction, leaving them devoid of all legs. Bristol City, for example, are still recovering from doing battle with City over two legs. After facing City, they face three league games in eight days. So, what will be the lasting effect of Wigan’s joust with City on Monday night? BF• City’s Gabriel Jesus in race to be fit for Carabao Cup final9) Locadia ready to make Seagulls bowThe lowest ranked side left in this year’s competition, Coventry City sit 63 places below their hosts, Brighton, on the league ladder. Despite a lowly League Two status inflicted upon them after years of hideously neglectful ownership, an incredible 28,343 supporters turned up at the Ricoh Arena to see them lose against Accrington last weekend following a successful promotion run by the club to help take the usual bare look off a stadium that usually struggles to attract crowds of more than six thousand. An insipid midweek defeat against Colchester, their third on the spin, has derailed Coventry’s promotion push and the absence through injury of their captain Michael Doyle, who will be forced to sit out their trip to Brighton this weekend. Few beyond Brighton fans would begrudge the 1987 FA Cup winners a place in the quarter-finals but unless they massively improve on recent performances, the Amex Stadium is where this year’s fairytale journey will end. Those same Brighton fans will be keeping their eyes peeled for a first sighting of their record signing, the Dutch striker Jürgen Locadia, the £14m January acquisition from PSV Eindhoven who has recovered from a hamstring injury and looks guaranteed to feature in Chris Hughton’s match-day plans. BG• Classic YouTube: Futsal finals, muddy faceplants and Boa Morte on MTV Cribs10) A shop window for Rochdale’s relegation-threatened journeymenRock bottom of League One, nine points from safety and with just one win in the third tier since late November, Rochdale welcome Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday as they attempt to make the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. They have played in the fifth round twice before, going out to Crystal Palace in 1990 and Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2003. Sunday’s visitors to Spotland get a considerable amount of stick for being relentlessly fawned over without ever actually winning any silverware, while Rochdale have quite literally never won a trophy on which the word “Lancashire” was not engraved. A team comprised of jobbing low-end journeymen who look destined for relegation could ask for no better shop window to showcase their talents and will be relishing the prospect of getting stuck into a Tottenham team that showed little or no appetite for a similar kind of scrap against Newport County at Rodney Parade. For Tottenham, this is quite the return to earth after their midweek adventures in Turin and romantics will be hoping Keith Hill will have his team primed to ensure their opponents landing is anything but smooth. BG• Alli says Rochdale pitch won’t worry Tottenham on Sunday• First the knife but then Juve’s assassin turns into a Sunday League fat bloke 1) Are Leicester City genuine contenders?Of the remaining teams in this season’s FA Cup, it could justifiably be argued that only one is in a position to give the competition their full and undivided attention. Whether it’s chasing other domestic or European titles (or several in the case of Manchester City), a Champions League or play-off place, or simply battling against relegation, no fewer than 15 of the 16 clubs have more pressing concerns , while Leicester City have no such distractions. Safely positioned in mid-table and just five points shy of the 40 that probably won’t even be required to guarantee safety, they may well secure theirs in consecutive league matches against Stoke, Bournemouth and West Brom. With that in mind, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that it would be a gross dereliction of duty if Leicester did not go all-out to win the FA Cup for the first time, having lost the most recent of their four final appearances in 1969. They have rested key players in previous rounds, but with a home draw against Sheffield United and a quarter-final place up for grabs, Claude Puel ought to wheel out this heaviest artillery. With so many high end Premier League sides left in the competition, there would be no shame in not winning the competition, but as things stand it would be remiss of them not to give it their very best shot. BG• David Squires on Riyad Mahrez and Leicester City• The Knowledge: Footballers joining and leaving a club soon after2) Hull down to barest of bonesNigel Adkins is probably without more players than he can call upon. Three of his squad, Fikayo Tomori, Ola Aina and Michael Hector, are ineligible to play against Chelsea, their parent club while Seb Larsson is suspended and there a handful of injury doubts too. Therefore the onus will again be on the impressive Jarrod Bowen, the 21-year-old who netted at Nottingham Forest in the previous round. The striker, who joined the club from Hereford in 2014, has scored 13 goals this season and has been one of few highlights amid the doom and gloom of Hull’s disastrous season, with the club fighting to stay in the Championship. He has quickly won several Premier League admirers too. A trip to Chelsea will likely prove testing for an out-of-sorts Hull team but Bowen, at least, is sure to relish rising to the challenge. BF FA Cuplast_img read more

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