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FA Cup quarter-final tips: Sheff Utd to see off Arsenal, a classic at the King Power, and the end of the road for Newcastle

June 26, 2020

SO here we are. Liverpool's 30-year quest for a league title is over. Jurgen Klopp has sealed his reputation as the best manager in the game right now, by crafting one of the best squad's the Premier League has ever seen, and getting them to play to the best of their ability. No one else has had a chance. 

However, this is not a column that sets out to dwell. Here we must look forward. If the Premier League are going to schedule in fixtures hot on the heels of Liverpool's glorious week, and the FA are going to throw in four mouth-watering FA Cup semi-finals, by God, we're going to preview them. Starting with the league matches, here are this week's tips.


Aston Villa vs Wolves | Saturday June 27, 12:30 GMT

In the last 14 clashes between these two sides at Villa Park, Aston Villa have won 10 times, losing only once, including a 2-1 victory over Wolves in the Carabao Cup earlier this season. However, Wolves can complete a first league double of their midland rivals since the 1962/63 season following their own 2-1 win at Molineux in November.

And the way Nuno Espirito Santo's side have come started post-lockdown, you'd be brave to bet against them. Two clean sheet wins, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez combining for another two goals to take their season tally up to 10, and just 11 shots on goal conceded. Nuno took a risk in trying to tackle a challenge to the Premier League top six and a Europa League campaign with a small squad – Wolves may be the one of the biggest beneficiaries of the three-month enforced layoff.

Villa have picked up two points since the Premier League started, their only points in the last seven matches. This team is not scoring enough goals, and that's going to be a real problem here because Wolves barely concede them. In their last seven matches, they have a mightily impressive six clean sheets. Wolves are better top to bottom, back them for the win.

Match Odds: Aston Villa (19/5) Draw (11/4) Wolves (4/5)
Tip: Wolves to win to nil (17/10)
Correct score: Aston Villa 0-2 Wolves (7/1)

Watford vs Southampton  | Sunday June 28, 16:30 GMT

After a run of 12 league games at Vicarage Road without a victory, Watford have now managed to win four their last seven including a 2-0 win over Man Utd, a 3-0 win over Liverpool, and draws with Tottenham and Leicester. They may have slipped to defeat at Burnley on Thursday, but Watford will be targeting their home games first and foremost, and if Southampton play the same way they did in 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Thursday, the Hornets have a chance.

Danny Ings will require special attention of course having scored eight and assisted two in his last 10 league games away from home which might make it a particularly busy afternoon for Craig Dawson who has not only scored Watford's only goal since returning, he's actually had more shots (4) than any other Watford player. Southampton did turn in a clinical away performance away at Norwich on their first game back but there's simply no chance Watford will be so open. Even so, scoring trouble taken into consideration, a draw is the bet here.

Match Odds: Watford (6/4) Draw (12/5) Southampton (2/1)
Tip: HT Draw FT Draw (4/1)
Correct score: Watford 1-1 Southampton (21/4)

Norwich City vs Man Utd Saturday June 27, 17:30 GMT

Eight points from safety with eight games remaining, there's definitely a case for Norwich prioritising a possible trophy over what seems at this stage to be a hopeless quest for Premier League survival. Daniel Farke may be leaving Carrow Road this summer, so from a personal perspective, he has every incentive. That said, Norwich will be seriously up against it against Man Utd whatever their priorities.

Man Utd have played four matches in the FA Cup so far this season and they're yet to concede a goal, and most if not all of those games came at a time when the team was really struggling and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came under incredible pressure. Since then, and arguably as a direct consequence of signing Bruno Fernandes, Utd have picked up significantly. They're now 13 games unbeaten with just three goals conceded in that run, and right back in the chase for the top four. That is surely Solskjaer's priority, however being three games away from his first trophy will surely inspire a strong team selection here.

Utd have won 10 of their last 12 matches at Carrow Road including a 3-1 win earlier this season, and remarkably Norwich have not won an FA Cup tie at home since 2012, drawing three and losing four. Barring a complete inversion of logic, which can happen in the cup, all the signs are pointing to comfortable Man Utd victory here.

Match Odds: Norwich City (24/5) Draw (3/1) Man Utd (3/5)
Tip: Man Utd to win to nil (29/20)
Correct score: Norwich 0-2 Man Utd (6/1)


Sheff Utd vs Arsenal | Saturday June 28, 13:00 GMT

Sheff Utd came into the restarted Premier League with legitimate hopes of a top four finish, but a 0-0 draw and two 3-0 defeats has knocked the stuffing out of their season. Arsenal on the other hand are a side who have the stuffing knocked out of their season every couple of weeks. What was it this time? Ahh, yes. David Luiz, a walloping at Man City, defeat at Brighton, eyebrow-raising contract extensions, and of course, a massive injury crisis.

They did manage a comfortable 2-0 win at Southampton to inject a bit of belief into the squad, but the Gunners have a poor record at Bramall Lane having won just one of their last eight trips including a 1-0 defeat back in October. Sheff Utd also managed to nick a point late on in the return fixture at the Emirates, so it's fair to say the Blades have edged this head-to-head this season.

Chris Wilder is likely to go back to basics after Sheff Utd's first poor run of the season, and if so, that should be a sufficient threat to see off Arsenal. The Gunners do not dare well against well-organised sides who can defend deep and also fire in cross after cross to exploit their weak aerial defence. It'll be a tight one but Wilder's side should just edge this one.

Match Odds: Sheff Utd (2/1) Draw (9/4) Arsenal (6/4)
Tip: Sheff Utd to win at least one half (10/11)
Correct score: Sheff Utd 2-1 Arsenal (9/1)

Leicester City vs Chelsea | Saturday June 28, 16:00 GMT

Leicester and Chelsea have squared off in the FA Cup quarter-finals twice in recent times – a 2-1 defeat in 2018, and a 5-2 defeat in 2012. In fact, the Foxes are winless in all their eight FA Cup ties with Chelsea, and have lost all four of the sides' League Cup clashes. In the Premier League, Leicester have taken just 17 points from their last 45 available meaning that Chelsea's 2-1 win over Man City on Thursday puts them just a point behind Brendan Rodgers' side with six games to play.

Leicester's 2020 malaise has changed the context of this match considerably. Back when the draw was made, and Leicester were not only comfortably ahead of their top four rivals, they were still technically in the title race, the FA Cup was a bit of an afterthought especially with a favourable League Cup semi-final draw against Aston Villa. Well Leicester lost that and if they don't buck up their ideas, they will lose their top four spot soon. Suddenly the afterthought becomes Rodgers' saving grace.

History teaches us he's not a man who responds particularly well to pressure, and my suspicion is that Chelsea, high on confidence after one of their most important wins of the season, will simply have too much. 

Match Odds: Leicester (37/10) Draw (49/20) Chelsea (6/4)
Tip: Chelsea to win (6/4)
Correct score: Leicester 1-2 Chelsea (8/1)


Newcastle Utd vs Man City | Saturday June 28, 18:30 GMT

Newcastle have the chance to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 2004/05 when Graeme Souness' side were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea. Having managed to avoid defeat in their last two matches with City, they might fancy their chances. Having the lost the previous 16 games in a row before that however, they might not.

You would expect City to respond in positive fashion after their poor 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Thursday. Whether that means simply dropping Benjamin Mendy, who knows? But Pep Guardiola will want his side approaching full sharpness with Liverpool to host at the Etihad next up in the league. The title may be gone, but pride still matters to the Spaniard.

His counterpart Steve Bruce has had a fine campaign. Having replaced Newcastle's best manager for a generation, Bruce was expected to take his bang average squad down. Instead, they are comfortably midtable with no relegation worries whatsoever. The Magpies' abysmal recent record in cups means Bruce should be going all out for this one. Fair play to him for creating this opportunity – the only problem is the massive gulf in class. Man City are still chasing a treble for the second straight season, they should make light work of Newcastle.

Match Odds: Newcastle (14/1) Draw (13/2) Man City (2/11)
Tip: Raheem Sterling to score any time (57/50)
Correct score: Newcastle 0-2 Man City (6/1)