By Neil Leverett
- FA Cup Fifth Round action begins on Friday night as Chelsea host Hull City and Leicester City face Sheffield United
- League One side Wigan Athletic host Manchester City in replay of 2013 final at DW Stadium
- 16 sides will vie for a place in next month’s quarter-finals, a step closer to Wembley in May
EMIRATES FA CUP, UK – As league actions steps aside for the weekend, the FA Cup Fifth Round arrives, as the Latics eye a giant-killing that would surpass that of their stunning cup final win against the Citizens five years ago.
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Can Wigan again stun the Citizens?
By far the most appealing of all eight Emirates FA Cup Fifth-Round ties, sees Wigan Athletic host Manchester City at the DW Stadium on Monday night.
As runaway leaders in the Premier League, City approach the latest meeting against their Greater Manchester neighbours in a clash richly veined in recent history in both league and cup competition.
As Paul Cook’s Latics stumble in League One having been the dominant force in the English third-tier since before Christmas, as 2018 has arrived Wigan have been overhauled in the standings by Shrewsbury Town – albeit with a game in hand.
The hosts have beaten City five times in the Premier League era – with Pep Guardiola’s men having eight to their name. In the domestic cups the ratio of wins is 4:3 in favour of the visitors also, but in the FA Cup, Wigan have won the last two meetings between the sides.
Notwithstanding the Latics’ most famous win in the final in 2013, courtesy of Ben Watson’s 90th-minute winner at Wembley, As holders they then knocked out City again the quarter-finals more impressively at the Etihad Stadium.
Throw in the extra flavour of a chance to play them on their own turf of the DW Stadium, this games really stands out as a potentially exceptional cup tie in the making.
Man City may boast the likes of Kun Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne et al, but Wigan are on a united front right now and eyeing a return to the top top tiers of the English football pyramid after a difficult few years.
Could Wigan make it three-in-a row against their more illustrious and multi-billionaire opponents this weekend-
Leicester face tricky Blades tie
With two games on the Friday night, Chelsea host Hull City in what looks a favourable draw despite the Tigers’ recent resurgence under Nigel Adkins. Traveling north however in the evening’s other clash, the King Power sees promotion-chasing Championship side Sheffield United travel to Leicester City.
The Foxes off the back of a league thumping last weekend to Man City, may now approach this tie with a little more apprehension with a place in the last eight at stake.
As more frequent bedfellows in the second-tier in recent years, the two met in the League Cup earlier this season, with the Foxes coming out on top with ease in a 4-1 win.
Blades’ boss Chris Wilder has impressed many by transforming the fortunes of the Yorkshire side, having got the best out the personnel at his disposal particular the breakout season of veteran striker Leon Clarke, with the Birmingham striker having netted 15 goals this campaign.
The hosts are generally in good form at home, but in domestic cup competition the rule book can be torn up and cast to the flames. After Claude Puel saw his men demolish lower league opposition in Peterborough United in the last round however, Leicester will still fancy their chances here but the Blades will not go quietly.
Carvalhal makes quick return to Yorkshire
Perhaps the most interesting narrative of the weekend’s cup ties sees former Shefffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal return to Hillsborough with his new employers Swansea City, just weeks after leaving his previous post.
The Swans having felt the full effect of the Portuguese’ impact in South Wales have miraculously turned their season around in the league after many had condemned then to relegation – and ironically a potential sharing of division with Saturday’s opponents.
As three-time winners of the trophy, the Owls most recent and historic cup run saw Wednesday reach the FA Cup final against Arsenal in 1993 and lose to the Gunners via an Andy Linighan extra-time goal in the replay at Wembley – just weeks after losing to George Graham’s side in the League Cup final.
Hovering in mid-table, the hosts are capable of troubling their top-flight opposition in the final third with a mix of youth and experience in their fold including Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes, Gary Hooper and the rather awkward 6’6′ Kosovan forward Atdhe Nuhiu.
As Swansea travel from the valleys however, Carvalhal will be able to boast a number of options in all areas which might include a full return debut for Andre Ayew. Indeed the Ghanaian may just tip the balance in the Welsh side’s favour.
Another away trip for Spurs; Seagulls host Sky Blues
In the other five fifth-round ties, there remain the possibility of further difficulties for Premier League sides. Tottenham Hotspur will again face the prospect of playing on a tricky away surface at Spotland against Rochdale, but the Lilywhites’ prior experience against Newport in the last round should hold them in good stead in Lancashire.
Coventry City, having dipsosed of Stoke City and MK Dons now travel to Brighton & Hove Albion in another awkward looking afternoon for Chris Hughton’s men at the AMEX Stadium.
West Bromwich Albion will be looking for cup revenge against Southampton after losing 3-2 in the league a few weeks ago, whilst on Saturday tea-time Huddersfield Town will be looking to replicate their win over Manchester United earlier this campaign, as the Red Devils travel to the John Smiths’ Stadium with the hosts buoyed from a win over AFC Bournemouth last time out, with Jose Mourinho’s side themselves fresh from a shock defeat to Newcastle United last weekend.
The FA Cup fifth round takes place this weekend between the 17th and 19th of January
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