5 talking points ahead of the ‘new-look’ midweek FA Cup fifth-round fixtures
The FA Cup settles into a new midweek date as the road to Wembley continues.
Wayne Rooney’s appearance against former club Manchester United is guaranteed to dominate the headlines, while the Premier League’s top-two Liverpool and Manchester City are on the trophy trail again.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the fifth round.
Special night for Rooney
The magic of the FA Cup showed it was very much alive and kicking when the fifth-round draw was made. Derby v Manchester United was the standout tie, or as some have termed it the ‘Rooney derby’. Rooney spent over 12 years at United, making 559 appearances and scoring a club-record 253 goals while winning a dozen major honours. It might be Pride Park and not Old Trafford on Thursday, but it will still be a special night for the former England captain taking on his old team.
Will Liverpool change cup tack?
Liverpool have sent out unfamiliar line-ups in the competition so far, yet still managed to overcome Everton and Shrewsbury to make the last 16. But with the Premier League title all-but tied up, despite a first defeat of the season at Watford on Saturday, will Jurgen Klopp strengthen for Tuesday’s trip to Chelsea? Frank Lampard has promised to play a strong team with Chelsea desperate to inject momentum back into their campaign. Keeping alive hopes of matching Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winning season might persuade Klopp to do likewise.
City chasing more silverware
Manchester City’s trophy dominance extended to a third consecutive Carabao Cup title on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa. Add last season’s FA Cup, as well as Premier League and Community Shield honours, and City have won eight of the last nine domestic trophies in England. Sheffield Wednesday are their last-16 FA Cup opponents, but a Hillsborough upset seems unlikely. The Owls have lost five of their last seven home games in the Sky Bet Championship.
Mourinho needs some cup cheer
Tottenham seem like a club on a downward spiral – and Jose Mourinho needs to turn things around. Fast. Sunday’s 3-2 home defeat to Wolves, in which they twice surrendered a lead, was their third successive defeat. Injuries to Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min have been unkind to Spurs, but a porous defence, constant changes in selection and the lack of a clear playing identity is hurting them right now. Spurs must see off Norwich at home on Wednesday to stop the grumbling getting any louder.
Midweek date is a first
Traditionalists will not like it, but the fifth round will be played over four nights between Monday and Thursday. Ties on Monday (Portsmouth v Arsenal) and Thursday (Derby v Manchester United) will bookend three ties on Tuesday and another three on Wednesday. English football’s packed schedule is bulging at the seams and the fifth round has moved from its customary mid-February date following last month’s inaugural winter break. Replays have also been scrapped from the fifth round, so ties will be decided on the night.