Matches Growing in Stature for FA Cup 6th Round Quarterfinals
The magic of the FA Cup is continuing through the New Year, and already several of the major teams have been booted from the competition. Because of its simple knockout formula, the tournament is always a joy to watch and provides some of the most entertaining soccer of the year, especially for lower league clubs given the opportunity to take on the big boys of the English Premier League. Remaining in the tournament now are Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Sunderland, Hull City, Wigan, Sheffield United, and Charlton.
While nearly all of the lower league opposition have been denied by this point, Championship sides Charlton and Wigan, and League 1 side Sheffield United still have dreams of Wembley Stadium glory in their eyes! Sheffield has already claimed two Premier League scalps by defeating Aston Villa and Fulham. While this is tremendous for such a downtrodden club we should point out that Sheffield United did reach the Premiership in 2006 before their recent falling. They will play Charlton this weekend and could definitely reach the semifinals!
Another team that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise is last year’s FA Cup champions Wigan. They face a massive test and must now travel to Manchester City, who will surely be eyeing revenge for their FA Cup Final loss last season to Wigan. While Wigan does still have a decent team, Manchester City has been blowing away most teams at home this year.
The marquee Premier League FA Cup encounter of the week will be Arsenal hosting Everton. While no one should discount the Gunners at home, they have been slipping up in recent weeks, notably losing last week away to Stoke City. Everton have always benefitted from a strong defense and actually earned a draw at the Emirates Stadium last December. Though it should be close, I still think Arsenal will pull this victory out, lest their once promising season falls into complete disarray.
The final quarterfinal match will be between Sunderland and Hull City, two clubs still scraping points for EPL survival! Sunderland recently lost in the Capital One Cup Final and will certainly want to get another shot at winning a trophy this season, though their woes from that defeat may leave them in a limping state back down to the Championship. Hull City has returned to the Premier League this season and are doing okay in 12th position. A win here would certainly boost their morale. Again, this is a game that is up in the air.
And that is what makes the FA Cup so wonderful. Anything can happen in a single game of football and the odds are never greater than in a single elimination knockout style tournament. When the dust settles on this round of 8, I suspect that Arsenal, Manchester City, Sheffield United, and Hull City will have emerged victorious and can now set their sites fully on a legitimate shot for the FA Cup trophy. Who will go on to win it all? My heart and my mind still pegs Arsenal to get over their 8 year trophy drought and claim this iconic piece of silverware come May!