FA Cup Semi-Finals & Premier League Matchday 31: Pochettino’s Men can Make History8 min read
The FA Cup semi-finals and the coronation of Manchester City as Premier League champions are the weekend highlights, as we enter the final weeks of the domestic season.
Can Manchester United bounce back from their pitiful performance against West Brom to give their fans something to shout about?
Manchester United v Tottenham
Manchester United have won their last three FA Cup ties against Tottenham, but I just feel Spurs will end their semi-final hoodoo – they have lost their last seven FA Cup semis – at Wembley on Saturday.
Both sides were in Premier League action on the south coast midweek with United meeting Bournemouth on Wednesday whilst Spurs were held 1-1 at Brighton twenty-four hours earlier.
Spurs were not at their best against Champions Manchester City on Saturday or against the Seagulls, but Mauricio Pochettino rested a number of key players at the Amex and I expect to see a rejuvenated Spurs come out firing in their “home” semi.
United did not show up at a subdued Old Trafford against West Brom on Sunday which was a surprise given their remarkable Derby comeback at the Etihad the previous weekend.
Romelu Lukaku has scored in every round of the Cup so far this season and Alexis Sanchez has scored five times in his four FA Cup games at Wembley – United need big games from the pair on Saturday evening.
Tip: Spurs to win at
Chelsea v Southampton
Southampton have won four of their five FA Cup ties against Chelsea but they surrendered a two-goal lead at St Mary’s in the league on Sunday and I expect the West London outfit to confirm the form at Wembley.
The Blues – who meet Burnley at Turf Moor in the PL on Thursday – have won their last five games against the Saints and Antonio Conte has a big call to make as to who leads the Blues line following Olivier Giroud’s brace after coming on as a second half substitute last weekend.
I expect to see an entertaining clash with Chelsea making it through the final for the 12th time from their last 15 semi-finals.
Tip: Chelsea to win and both teams to score at
West Brom v Liverpool
Nothing wrong with West Brom’s spirit and I wonder how many sides have been relegated at the end of a season they have gained wins at both Old Trafford (Premier League) and Anfield (FA Cup).
Liverpool entertain Roma on Tuesday and could be forgiven for having one eye on their Champions League semi-final first leg, but this is a very focussed, motivated Reds side and I expect them to have too much quality for the Baggies.
Last week, Mo Salah became only the third Liverpool attacker to score 40+ goals in all competitions in a single season – after Roger Hunt (1961-62) and Ian Rush who achieved the feat twice in 1983-3 and 1986-87. He has been magnificent so far this season although you sense there is still more to come from the Egyptian who must be looking forward to meeting his old Roma teammates at Anfield.
Tip: Liverpool to win to nil at
Watford v Crystal Palace
Watford have only picked up one point from their last 30 on the road and have only gained a solitary draw from their last five games. The Hornets did pick up enough points earlier in the season to be almost certain of maintaining their PL status but their current form is a worry with next term in mind.
Palace got the maximum points their recent home form deserved when they beat Brighton in M23 derby last weekend and I think they can build on that success at Vicarage Road.
Tip: Palace to win at
Arsenal v West Ham
I thought Arsenal played well for long periods at St James’s Park but the bottom line is they have now lost five successive away league games for the first time since 1984. That is simply not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s heritage.
🔴 @Arsenal’s Away Form In 2018:
❌ 2-1 vs Bournemouth
❌ 3-1 vs Swansea
❌ 1-0 vs Tottenham
❌ 2-1 vs Brighton
❌ 2-1 vs Newcastle
😳 The only side in England's top four leagues to NOT win an away point this year. 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/YdGAe0sxJb
— SPORF (@Sporf) April 15, 2018
The Gunners home form remains good, however, and I expect them to go into Thursday’s Europa League semi-final with Atletico Madrid with three points safely tucked away from this London Derby.
Tip: Arsenal to win and both teams to score at
Stoke City v Burnley
Stoke had two points cruelly taken from them at the London Stadium on Monday and the draw means they are five points from safety. You feel they must beat Burnley at the weekend if they are to have any chance of maintaining their Premier League status.
That is easier said than done, however. The Clarets, at the time of writing, have won their last five league games and they are challenging Arsenal for a place in the top six. What a season it has been for Sean Dyche and all involved with the club.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at
Manchester City v Swansea
I would like to add my congratulations to Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side who have been quite magnificent this season and showed great character, to match their undoubted talent, at Wembley on Saturday when they demolished a very good Spurs side.
Raheem Sterling scored his 22nd goal of the season for City at Wembley, he has brought more consistency, and goals to his play this term – he has a massive role to play for the Three Lions in Russia this summer.
Tip: Sterling to score at anytime at
Everton v Newcastle United
Everton were fortunate to come away with all three points at St James’s Park in the reverse fixture over Christmas and former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, eyeing a top ten finish, would gain great satisfaction if his Newcastle side finished above the Blues this season.
Former United manager Sam Allardyce has steadied the ship at Goodison, but the natives have not been best pleased with the quality of football the Blues have served up. Make no mistake, this is no end-of-season affair between two mid-table teams.
I do not expect the Magpies to lose.
Tip: Newcastle double chance (draw or win) at
Tip: Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Arsenal at