FA Cup Preview: Fantasy Players to Watch
The FA Cup is gathering momentum and with quarter-final places up for grabs this weekend, clubs will have to start deciding how seriously they want to take the historic competition.
Chelsea’s home tie against Manchester City is one of the most eye-catching fixtures of the round, but there are opportunities for upsets too, with Blackburn Rovers hosting West Ham United, Hull City travelling to holders Arsenal and minnows Shrewsbury Town taking on Manchester United.
Here are five of the round’s biggest ties and the fantasy players to watch out for this weekend.
Chelsea v Manchester City
There is no doubt that the tie of the round sees Manchester City travel to Chelsea, although City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini has complained about the game’s proximity to a long trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Chelsea, for whom the FA Cup is their best shot at glory this season, could be without first-choice defensive pairing Kurt Zouma and John Terry. Zouma is certain to miss the match with a serious knee injury while Terry is doubtful due to a hamstring problem he picked up in Saturday’s win against Newcastle United. Branislav Ivanović is therefore likely to start alongside Gary Cahill at centre-back, with Baba Rahman and Cesar César Azpilicueta the full-backs.
City should hand a start to Kelechi Iheanacho, who has scored four goals in two FA Cup games this season, giving Pellegrini the chance to rest Sergio Agüero for the Champions League. Iheanacho looks good daily fantasy value on FantasyBet at £7m.
Shrewsbury Town v Manchester United
Shrewsbury Town are the smallest team left in the competition and they host Manchester United in a mouthwatering cup tie on Monday, with United having lost 2-1 at Sunderland on Saturday.
Veteran midfielder Michael Carrick has admitted it is an “annoyance” that United have not won the FA Cup since 2004, with the tournament one of only a few he has not won at the club.
“I missed out on winning it in my first season, losing in the final to Chelsea – the first one back at the new Wembley – late on in extra-time,” Carrick said. “That was hugely disappointing. We’ve had a couple of really big chances to get back there over the years but we haven’t taken them.”
Micky Mellon’s side would record one of the biggest ever FA Cup shocks if they could knock United out, but no player has scored more than four goals for the League One strugglers this year.
Blackburn Rovers v West Ham United
West Ham triumphed over Liverpool in what manager Slaven Bilić described as a “classic FA Cup tie” in round four, but a trip to Championship side Blackburn Rovers offers a potential banana skin.
Rovers have struggled for goals under new manager Paul Lambert and they sold top goalscorer Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough in the January transfer window, while Lambert also once said Premier League managers could do without the FA Cup “if they were being honest” before his Aston Villa side lost 2-1 to Sheffield United in the 2014 third round.
Fantasy players to consider selecting include the in-form playmaker Dimitri Payet, Mark Noble and Angelo Ogbonna, who hit the Hammers’ late winner against Liverpool. Rovers can count on reliable defender Shane Duffy, who has been the fourth best player in the Championship this season according to WhoScored, with the Republic of Ireland international rated at 7.47.
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
A run of seven straight wins has put Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham in Premier League title contention and the FA Cup may be Spurs’ lowest priority, as they are also in the Europa League.
The most interesting sub-plot in Crystal Palace’s trip to White Hart Lane is the return of striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored his first goal for the club in a weekend loss at home to Watford.
Palace have lost six of their last seven Premier League games, so the cup could be a welcome distraction for Alan Pardew’s side, who have struggled to cope without injured playmaker Yannick Bolasie, who has scored four goals this season. In fact, Palace’s joint top scorers have only scored five goals all season, with Yohan Cabaye tied with centre-back Scott Dann.
Arsenal v Hull City
The fifth round gets underway when the holders Arsenal host Championship leaders Hull City in the early kick-off on Saturday, with Arsène Wenger’s side seeking a third straight FA Cup title.
Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny could all miss the game, leaving Arsenal with a second-string defence, while David Ospina may get a chance to impress in goal.
Wenger must also be thinking ahead for a Champions League clash with Barcelona, but he has been boosted by the improving fitness of Danny Welbeck, who scored a dramatic late winning goal in a 2-1 victory against title rivals Leicester City on Sunday.
Steve Bruce’s Tigers lost the 2014 FA Cup final 3-2 to Arsenal despite taking a 2-0 lead in the early minutes at Wembley and the Gunners also beat Hull in last year’s third round. But, in Abel Hernández, Bruce has one of the country’s most in-form strikers, with the Uruguay striker having hit 17 goals for his club this season.