Sheffield United vs Fylde
Fylde have done well to get this far. The lowest-ranked team left in the competition, they’re up against this season’s surprise package in the Premier League Sheffield United. They were able to dismantle lower-league opposition in the form of Kingstonian last month, but can they pull off a major shock? The Blades are at about 1/10 to be victorious, and it’s hard to see Fylde getting anything other than perhaps a well-worked consolation goal. They’re in the bottom half of the National League at the moment, and will at least be able to concentrate fully on the league if they do get knocked out at this stage.
Prediction: Sheffield United WIN
Wolves vs Man United
This is a tough one to predict. Wolves are having a good season, managing to balance the Premier League with their European commitments. In contrast, Man United are having something of a torrid time, that surprise victory away at rivals Man City notwithstanding. They’ll be wary of Mexican forward Raúl Jiménez who has nine league goals for Wolves this season, and Rúben Neves, scorer of their equaliser against the Red Devils back in August. However, they still have some impressive players at the club, and it should be a tight encounter. Both teams are at about 6/4 to win the match, which seems fair overall.
Prediction: DRAW – Man United to win replay
Liverpool vs Everton
The tie of the round. Liverpool are flying at the top of the league and could just get their first top-flight title since 1990. In contrast, local rivals Everton aren’t enjoying themselves so much across Stanley Park, and their poor form cost manager Marco Silva his job. However, they got their post-Silva era off to a good start with a 3-1 win against Chelsea, and things might be looking up. Getting anything at Anfield is probably beyond their grasp, though, and this is reflected in 6/1 odds. Liverpool are favourites here, and with good reason. This could easily be a repeat of the 5-2 result earlier in December.
Prediction: Liverpool WIN
Birmingham vs Blackburn
An all-Championship tie between two teams who harbour hopes of creeping into the play-offs. A Maxime Colin goal was all that separated the sides at St. Andrews in the league this season, and Blackburn will be hungry to avenge that result. Blackburn have been on a good run recently, while Birmingham will hope manager Pep Clotet can field a strong XI for this fixture. The Blues are at evens to win, but anything could happen in this fixture. Ultimately, it might be home advantage that sees Birmingham through, although Blackburn also have every chance of getting through into the fourth round.
Prediction: Birmingham WIN
Man City vs Port Vale
There’s only one outcome in this fixture, surely? Man City might not be at the ridiculously high levels they set themselves over the past couple of seasons, but they’re playing a League Two side here. At home. It might not be another 9-0 like we saw against Burton Albion in the League Cup semi-final last year, but it’ll surely be a comfortable win for the Citizens. No matter the line-up fielded by Pep Guardiola, it should be too much for Port Vale to cope with – although, mid-table in League Two, they might decide to go for it and see if they can pull off the near-impossible.
Prediction: Man City WIN
Arsenal vs Leeds
Is it a stretch to call both of these clubs fallen giants? Leeds are still in the Championship but hoping this year will be ‘our year’, while Arsenal are currently without a permanent manager, Freddie Ljungberg taking charge in the interim. They’ve underperformed in the league this season, and Leeds will hope to spring a surprise on the Gunners. With automatic promotion looking likely, a result at the Emirates would show the Premier League that they mean business, should they go up in the Spring. Arsenal are by far the stronger team on paper, but a Leeds win isn’t out of the question.
Prediction: Leeds WIN
Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest
Both of these teams have enjoyed decent campaigns so far, Chelsea in the top four despite the transfer ban and Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off places, Lewis Grabban on form for them. A domestic cup run is probably Chelsea’s best chance of silverware this season, as the Premier League looks to be beyond their reach, so they’ll be hoping for a good result here. They have a large-enough pool of players to choose from, even with the usual clutch of loanees dotted around Europe, so a combination of youth and experience should see them through. At 1/8 for Chelsea to win, can we really see Forest springing a surprise here?
Prediction: Chelsea WIN