Man City 2 Chelsea 1
Chelsea have already beaten moneybags Manchester City twice in the league. I reckon it will be third time lucky for Engineer Manuel Pellegrini. While Chelsea were imperious in dispatching City 1-0 at the Ettihad, their victory at Stamford Bridge was more fortuitous as keeper Joe Hart made the howler of his career. Without injured skipper John Terry, there is no David Luiz to provide a protective bulwark in front of the back four along with Nemanja Matic. That will be Chelsea’s Achilles Heel.
Sunderland 1 S’mpton 1
After a difficult spell in which they won only one out of ten Premiership fixtures, Southampton have re-discovered their mojo. They are now unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions. The manner in which they took care of stubborn Hull City at the KC Stadium, and dispatched Fulham at Craven Cottage a couple of weeks earlier, has convinced me the Saints are good enough to force a replay against Gustavo Poyet’s tactically well drilled Black Cats. I am calling a stalemate.
Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1
Arsene Wenger will be out to make amends for the devastating manner of their 1-5 capitulation to Liverpool at Anfield. But it is never easy to play effectively against the same side in such a short time spell. That will work against Arsenal who have the Champions League humdinger against Bayern Munich to think about. Additionally, Arsenal had the more difficult mid-week fixture mid-week at home to perennial rivals Man United. All these factors point to a face-saving stalemate for the Gunners.
Everton 2 Swansea 0
Everton’s FA Cup winning coach Roberto Martinez welcomes his former side to Goodison Park aware that they are a potential banana skin. It was Martinez that built the brand that is Swansea by introducing the free-flowing football that has become a trademark for the South Wales side. Goodison Park is a fortress for the Toffees who will still be without Romelu Lukaku. Martinez can however call upon the services of Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Lacina Traore who have all regained full fitness.
Cardiff City 2 Wigan 1
A good FA Cup run could be a double-edged sword for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Cardiff as playing two games per week may prove detrimental to their survival hopes in the Premier League. Cup holders Wigan are also looking to launch an assault on play-off positions. That will play into Cardiff’s hands.
Sheffield W 1 Charlton 0
Sheffield Wednesday saw their eleven game unbeaten run brought to a shuddering halt when they fell to Wigan in the Championship on Tuesday. On account of their superior pedigree, I am tipping the three-time FA Cup winners to bounce back and emerge tops against lackluster Charlton.
Sheff United 0 Nottingham 1
Sheffield United showed great resilience in upsetting Fulham in the previous round. Despite wallowing in the depths of League One, they were good value for their extra-time victory at Craven Cottage. Nevertheless, former European champions Nottingham Forest will prove to be a mountain too steep.
Brighton 1 Hull 1
These are teams that are cut from the same cloth, with defensive stability very much the bedrock for their success. Steve Bruce’s Hull City looked ordinary in their 0-1 defeat to Southampton in the Premiership but I can see them forcing a replay against the Championship outfit.