Author Archives: Timothy Masters

Premier League previews, 3/3/15

Aston Villa v West Brom, 19:45

A few years ago there was a battle for supremacy in the midlands, as West Brom had a rising profile and a wonderful backroom at a time when there were three teams from the area in the Premier League, but all that is a distant memory now. This season we have two of the Birmingham sides in the big league and they both fighting relegation and struggling to hold onto their best players as a result, and while the Baggies have maintained their position as top dogs in that part of the world they are only eight points clear of Villa, who are firmly ensconced in the relegation zone. The appointment of Tony Pulis by West Brom was a wise move, and it looks as though they are safe now, but to go from up-and-comers to taking on Pulis to survive is hardly a success story by any stretch of the imagination.

Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar is “touch and go” due to injury despite having completed a ban, and both Kieran Richardson and Aly Cissokho remain unavailable at left-back. West Brom boss Tony Pulis has fitness concerns over Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye, worrying for him as Victor Anichebe remains sidelined by a groin problem.

Hull v Sunderland, 19:45

With West Brom taking on Viaa and this match too, this may as well be relegation Tuesday in the Premier League, and the fans of Sunderland and Hull could well end up looking back on this game as a pivotal moment in their demise, or maybe their survival if things go well for them. There is a point and a place in the Premier League between them prior to kick off, five goals difference and just two points over their last seven games, so it will be a really close game according to the form book, and a win could potentially see the victors move six points clear of the relegation zone at a time when the action is really starting to hot up.

Dame N’Doye is expected to start for Hull and Nikica Jelavic should overcome a swollen knee but Robbie Brady could miss the rest of the season. Sunderland will have Wes Brown available after his red card at Old Trafford was overturned, and Jack Rodwell, Ricky Alvarez and Billy Jones are all thought to be fit.

Southampton v Crystal Palace, 19:45

For all that they are the media darlings and a supremely entertaining side to watch at times, Southampton are just starting to struggle now after an amazing first half of the season and need a run of easy games to get back on track. Losses to West Brom and Swansea were more surprising than the defeat Liverpool inflicted on Ronald Koeman’s side recently, and anyone thinking this game falls into the former category should maybe check again. Crystal Palace have lost only two of their last nine league matches, taking four victories in their last seven, and under Alan Pardew arguably look as good as they have done for many a year in the Premier League.

Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld is available after a seven-week lay-off, and both Eljero Elia and Shane Long are pushing for recalls. Shola Ameobi forward Glenn Murray is suspended, Jordon Mutch has a thigh niggle and Yaya Sanogo, Fraizer Campbell, and Marouane Chamakh are all out with hamstring problems.

Match previews, 1/3/15

Barclays Premier League
Liverpool v Man City, 12:00

If you were being a bit cynical it’d be tempting to wonder exactly when the Premier League fixture panel decided this should be the weekend that Liverpool play City and Arsenal face Everton, and if that decision came before or after the scheduling of the Capital One Cup, but it’s sure to equate to a bumper day of figures regardless. The match Liverpool were able to win last year in their title pursuit was this one, before slipping to some sides from the capital, and a victory today would be great news for a team that doesn’t look quite as good as the form table would suggest they really are right now, especially on Thursday evening in Turkey.

Philippe Coutinho returns after being rested against Besiktas but Jordan Henderson will be assessed, and there is good news as Glen Johnson should have recovered from illness. Manchester City’s Yaya Toure returns and Wilfried Bony could be in line for his first start.

Arsenal v Everton, 14:05

Seven wins in their last nine league matches have seen Arsenal leapfrog Manchester United and Southampton to go third in the Premier League table, and while Arsene Wenger may have identified this as a tough fixture at the start of the year it is fair to say Everton aren’t exactly looking daunting right now as opposition for any English side. The different story Roberto Martinez and his men are telling in Europe is thrilling to watch but ultimately unimportant compared to their league showing, and with one win in the last ten league matches they’ve played it’s fair to say Everton have significant room for improvement on the domestic front.

Jack Wilshere’s return for Arsenal will be delayed following minor ankle surgery and both Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini are doubtful. Everton’s Romelu Lukaku should be fit, John Stones and Aaron Lennon return but Steven Pienaar is still out injured.

Capital One Cup
Chelsea v Spurs, 16:00

Mocked and derided by any club that has been eliminated from it, the Carling/Worthington/Capital One Cup still remains one of just four major trophies the 72 Football League sides are battling for, and as a result the semi-finals and final are normally high-quality games with teams that actually want to win, and therefore put out their best players. With neither of these two really interested in the Europa League, this is all about the day, and Mauricio Pochettino knows that the 5-3 defeat his side inflicted on Chelsea in the league not long ago will be a massive bargaining chip as he attempts to get every last drop of mental energy from his players as they trot about on the famous Wembley turf.

Ramires is expected to start in the absence of the suspended Nemanja Matic, with John Obi Mikel injured, while Thibaut Courtois is likely to start in goal, with Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill competing for a place ahead of the Belgian star. Tottenham have no fresh injury worries and Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker all got a rest on on Thursday.

Premier League previews, 28/2/15

West Ham v Crystal Palace, 12:45

You will undoubtedly have your own opinions about Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew, but it can’t be denied that the pair continue to outperform much more respected managers on modest budget and get little credit from the mainstream press. Stoke, Newcastle and Everton all sit below the Hammers in the table despite having greater resources and a manager that is a darling of the English press in Everton’s case, and since Pardew took over at Palace the London club have lost just two of their last eight games, equal-best of all the teams in the bottom half of the table.

Sam Allardyce says Nene will make his debut against Crystal Palace, but Morgan Amalfitano is banned and Andy Carroll is out for the season. Crystal Palace are bolstered by the return of Mile Jedinak and James McArthur, but have issues up front as Fraizer Campbell, Marouane Chamakh and Yaya Sanogo all miss out with hamstring injuries.

Burnley v Swansea, 15:00

After managing to stay largely out of the spotlight in terms of embarrassing himself over the first half of the season Sean Dyche found out about the reality of life as a Premier League manager after the game against Chelsea, where he was forced to tell a stupid lie and say that Ashley Barnes is not a dirty player despite all the evidence proving him wrong. Today Dyche must be hoping Barnes can control himself a bit better as they face a Swansea side that might just be there for the taking, having only won two of their last eight, and three points might even lift Burnley out of the bottom three.

For Sean Dyche, Matt Taylor is nearing a return, but Dean Marney and Kevin Long are both out for the season. Swansea have no new fresh injuries, with Jefferson Montero the player most likely to be recalled.

Man Utd v Sunderland, 15:00

Sunderland is traditionally where old Man Utd squad players go to fade slowly away like a retreating moon, and sure enough the likes of Wes Brown and John O’Shea will be somewhere close to this match today for the Black Cats. The Red Devils have seen their run of good form halted a bit of late and can really only boast four wins in their last ten matches, not an impressive record in the slightest, so Sunderland might take heart from having lost just one of their last four games and spring a surprise here, although I wouldn’t count on it.

Robin van Persie misses out with an ankle injury, but James Wilson has recovered from a dead leg and Michael Carrick is back in training. Sunderland’s Emanuele Giaccherini is unlikely to play again this season and both Billy Jones and Jack Rodwell remain out.

Newcastle v Aston Villa, 15:00

Back before they were little more than pornographers with a pitch to hire out, Charlton Athletic had a reputation for doing very well up until the point where they have the forty or so needed to survive in the league, when they would promptly shut up the footballing shop and stop playing with anything like the same commitment or verve. Sadly for their fans, a succession of bad decisions by the board and the toll that’s taken on the managers who’ve worked for them means that they’ve been able to do little more than survive of late either, although if there was ever a time to turn things around a bit it is probably when you’re facing a team that hasn’t won in their last ten, and has lost five on the bounce.

Jonas Gutierrez could make his first Newcastle appearance in 17 months but Cheick Tiote has undergone knee surgery and Jack Colback is suspended. Villa captain Ron Vlaar also serves a ban, Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho are injury doubts and Kieran Richardson is out with a calf problem.

Stoke v Hull, 15:00

Another team that are probably just happy to be in the £5bn league for one more year is Stoke, who made a good choice hiring Mark Hughes it seems and will now attempt to consolidate and get as much of the position-dependant windfall as is possible. For Hull, on the other hand, this is a straight dogfight to survive and one they are still not safe from by any means, although two recent victories have seen the previously endangered Tigers making a slight move up the table and toward a position of relative safety. A win here could take Steve Bruce and his men as high as twelfth, but they’re very much in touch with the bottom three as well and far from safe.

Ryan Shawcross is again out, but Geoff Cameron returns after a one-game ban and Erik Pieters is fit. Hull are still without Mohamed Diame, but have no new fitness concerns, with Liam Rosenior, James Chester and Robert Snodgrass still out.

West Brom v Southampton, 15:00

For all the glib and amusing comments Ronald Koeman likes to make about other teams and players he has done a wonderful job taking the pressure off his own men this season, as evidenced by the sheer lack of coverage things like Graziano Pelle’s continual decline or the confused tactics that probably cost them the Liverpool game. With Saints sat fifth in the table and right on the verge of dropping out of the European places there is a bit of pressure on at this stage, but an away game against West Brom is far from simple with the Baggies having lost just one of their last six in the Barclays Premier League.

West Brom pair James Morrison and Saido Berahino are both injury doubts but Victor Anichebe may be involved. Southampton’s Sadio Mane could be recalled and Toby Alderweireld is likely to return next week but Jay Rodriguez remains out.

Europa League previews, 26/2/15

Besiktas v Liverpool, 18:00 (agg. 0-1)

It’s a big week for Liverpool as they travel to experience the Turkey section of their big game sandwich. On Boxing Day that definitely makes this the meat in the dish, but if Brendan Rodgers was offered the choice between a win and progress in the Europa League or three points against Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday you’d think the Liverpool boss would only hesitate for a second, given what a top four finish is worth in the modern game. The main aim will be to keep the squad overall fresh and get nine points from the three matches, but Besiktas were by no means overawed at Anfield and should prove a stern test this evening.

There are a few injury concerns for the away team that make selection this evening a bit tricky, with Mama Sakho, Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard, Lucas and Jon Flanagan all out, as well as backup keeper Brad Jones.

Fiorentina v Spurs, 18:00 (agg. 1-1)

A home draw is never an ideal result in a two-legged tie with the away-goals rule in place, and for Tottenham there is a lot of work to do before they can start counting their chickens, or should that be cockerels? Ornithology aside, one of the main problems for Spurs so far this season has been the number of goals they concede, more than any other in the top ten of the Premier League, and if they can’t keep a clean sheet this evening then their chances of progress to round two will drop from slim to virtually nil.

Spurs are injury free ahead of this game, great news for the manager who will undoubtedly be working his socks off to manage the Thursday/Sunday workload for his players.

Everton v Young Boys, 20:05 (agg. 4-1)

Leg one between these two went absolutely swimmingly for the English club, who really could do with another good game to turn some of the frowns at Goodison Park upside-down. Everton are still not in the top ten of the Premier League though, and have only won once in their last ten matches in that competition, so in some ways it is miraculous that there is not more pressure on Roberto Martinez from the board and fans, and the Spaniard will know this is a chance to build confidence for battles ahead. Equally though, the Swiss side will want to restore some pride if nothing else, so don’t write this off as a dead game just yet.

Bryan Oviedo might have a chance of being fit for this game, but the Toffees will have to make do without Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert as they try to close this out with minimal damage.

Champions League previews, 24/2/15

Manchester City v Barcelona, 19:45, 24/2/15

You can say what you like about the link between money and evil, but as far as this writer is concerned the sheer volume of spending in the last few years by these two clubs is a good thing, at least for the interested spectator. Sure, the Spanish league might be about as competitive as a Europe vs the World 100m race and Barcelona may or may not have a strike-force that cost in excess of £150m despite their best attacker being a ‘free’ youth team product, but just for tonight we get to watch Aguero, David Silva, Kompany, Neymar, Messi and Suarez, and as far as UEFA are concerned that is a bloody triumph.

These high-profile games can often be a bit underwhelming, but the City manager is less inclined to park the bus that some of his contemporaries, and we can only hope for a cracker this evening. Luis Suarez looks set to play his first match in England since leaving Liverpool, and Luis Enrique has an almost full squad to select from, with only defenders Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen out. City striker Wilfried Bony could make his first start for the hosts and James Milner is fit, but there is bad news as Yaya Toure is suspended.

Arsenal v Monaco, 19:45, 25/2/15

The confrontation with his old club and the eventual return of Arsene Wenger to his old stomping ground, where he set in motion the wheels that produced the last great Monaco side has dominated the build-up to this match, and looking at the draws that City and Chelsea were dealt suggests a bit of nostalgia and some awkward, potentially memory-testing questions aren’t that bad in comparison. A divorce and a touch of Financial Fair Play has cost the French side their star striker and James ‘Hammers’ Rodriguez, but they are still an exciting side and riding relatively high in the French league, alongside PSG and Lyon, making this as tricky a game as you’d expect in the knockout stages of the toughest club competition on earth.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be fit enough to play some part for Arsenal in this game, but Aaron Ramsey won’t be ready until the beginning of March and Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby are longer-term problems. For the visitors, Ricardo Carvalho, Andrea Raggi and Tiemoue Bakayoko could all miss out, but the likes of Lucas Ocampos and Dimitar Berbatov can still hurt the Gunners this evening.

Premier League previews, 22/2/15

Spurs v West Ham, 12:00
This might not be the biggest London derby you can imagine, but with any luck it will be one of the more competitive affairs we’ve seen between clubs from the top division in many a moon, and the league table certainly supports the idea that this could be a pretty good match for the neutral to watch. Only four points separate these two in the Barclays Premier League table prior to kick-off, and the form is relatively even too with West Ham having lost once in their last six, and Tottenham having won four over the same time-frame.
Mauricio Pochettino rotated his squad on Thursday and has reported no new injury concerns, meaning he will have a fully-fit squad at his disposal. West Ham trio Winston Reid, Matt Jarvis and James Collins are all available but Andy Carroll is out again while Nene will not feature as he lacks match fitness.

Everton v Leicester, 14:05
There are now five points between Leicester and the relative safety of seventeenth place in the Barclays Premier League table, and while that’s not a massive gap it is something to worry about if you’re a team that has only managed seven from the last thirty on offer. Nigel Pearson has the look of a six-foot man trying to walk in a seven-foot deep pool these last few weeks, and at this stage the only reason you could assume for his not being sacked is that the club has already accepted they’re going straight back down and doesn’t think there is a better manager for taking the club through the Championship next term.
Everton midfielder Gareth Barry serves a ban but Leighton Baines and Aaron Lennon are available again. Leicester welcome back Robert Huth, but Chris Wood and Kasper Schmeichel are back in training, but not match fit yet.

Southampton v Liverpool, 16:15
While everyone focusses on the fact Liverpool bought a few players from Southampton over the summer at some extremely generous prices, the last match of the weekend is a fairly important one between a side expected to make the top four and a team that actually looks like doing so. Despite a hiccup here and there, Southampton are still in the right part of the table and hold off the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs, and with recent wins over the aforementioned Gunners as well as Man Utd you can expect them to fancy another three points here today.
Southampton have been boosted by the news that Shane Long and Morgan Schneiderlin are fit, and Matt Targett is in contention after recovering from the head injury. Raheem Sterling could be recalled to the Liverpool starting line-up but Steven Gerrard will again miss out.

Premier League previews, 21/2/15

Aston Villa v Stoke, 15:00
In show business there is an old adage about starting on a strong note, but today we have something less impressive really, with the worst side in the Barclays Premier League being our opening act for the afternoon. Aston Villa haven’t won in ten league games, making it unsurprising in the extreme that we’re talking about their new manager Tim Sherwood and his chances of keeping them up, and Stoke will have no interest whatsoever in helping them up. This might not be the most attractive game of the weekend, but it will set the tone for the next few games for Sherwood, and might be the biggest game Villa have played for a while.
Sherwood has been boosted by the return of Gabby Agbonlahor and Carles Gil, but Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos are still out. Stoke defender Marc Muniesa has been ruled out for up to six weeks while Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron are also unavailable, but Marc Wilson and Erik Pieters could return.

Chelsea v Burnley, 15:00
Nearly-bottom of the table takes on the best team in the land, at least according to the numbers today and with Chelsea at home this is the sort of match you’d put your mortgage on, just for the free money. Invincible they may not be, but the Stamford Bridge club have swept almost all before them so far this term at least domestically and facing a team nineteenth in the table and with one win in their last nine games won’t really bother them in the slightest, save a slight concern about complacency in a match they can only really win.
Chelsea’s Diego Costa returns, and Oscar, Petr Cech, Juan Cuadrado and Kurt Zouma are all fit and ready to play. Burnley full-back Stephen Ward is back in contention but Dean Marney, Kevin Long and Matt Taylor are not ready to return.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal, 15:00
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to call Alan Pardew a bad manager when you look at what he’s actually done in his time as Crystal Palace manager and today he welcomes an Arsenal side that he’s done well against in his previous club incarnations. The away side may only have lost twice in their last ten matches, but Palace are only on three over the same time period and playing at home against the Gunners won’t daunt them that much, not if the manager gets his team talk right.
Crystal Palace could have captain Mile Jedinak back and James McArthur may also return, but Yaya Sanogo is ineligible to play against his parent club. Arsenal have Jack Wilshere available, but Hector Bellerin, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are doubts.

Hull v QPR, 15:00
Sixteenth and seventeenth in the table meet this afternoon, and if you want a quick précis of how these two sides look coming into the game look no further than their last ten games combined. Over that period QPR and Hull have endured seven losses, and if it weren’t for the four points in their last two games that Hull have picked up this would be pretty much the hardest game to call of the entire weekend. As it is, a home win looks most likely, although Rangers did beat Sunderland in their last outing and could spring a shock.
Hull’s Mohamed Diame has had to delay his return and stays on the disabled list with James Chester, Liam Rosenior and Robert Snodgrass, who have long-term injuries. QPR welcome back top scorer Charlie Austin, but Mauricio Isla, Leroy Fer, Sandro, Richard Dunne, Alejandro Faurlin and Nedum Onuoha are all missing.

Sunderland v West Brom, 15:00
Without meaning to disparage the London club, you know that Sunderland losing at home against QPR last time out is the kind of result that will really wind the fans up something chronic, as it was a rare match where they genuinely had a strong chance to win and improve their odds of survival. One win in their last eight games and some poor play along the way has left the Black Cats two points away from the relegation zone, with the Baggies two points about their hosts, so this will be a tight and tense game between two teams that need to win.
Lee Cattermole could play for the first time this year but Jermain Defoe is a doubt with a calf problem. West Brom defender Jonas Olsson could play, Youssouf Mulumbu is doubtful and Victor Anichebe is out.

Swansea v Man Utd, 15:00
When these two met at the start of the season things went very well for Swansea, but since then there has been a sense of money talking for this pair as United’s expensive squad has risen inexorably up the table, while Swansea have been forced to accept some of the realities of the world with the sale of Wilfried Bony to Man City. The Swans are ninth, with one win in their last seven matches while United have gone undefeated in their last four games, but this match being in Wales could even things out if United don’t get out of the blocks quickly.
Swansea welcome back Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Routledge and Marvin Emnes, but Kyle Bartley has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee problem. Manchester United striker Robin van Persie is fit, with Michael Carrick expected to be their only absentee.

Man City v Newcastle, 17:30
The final game for the day has the potential the be the most entertaining and potentially volatile we’ll see all weekend, with Newcastle an unpredictable mess at times and City chasing Chelsea at the top of the table. Unfortunately for the reigning champions, they’ve only won one of their last five matches at a time when they desperately need victories, and you can bet the fans will be hoping the return of some very good players from the African Cup of Nations is all they need to turn things back around and regain some ground on Chelsea.
Wilfried Bony could make his City debut, but maybe from the bench as Sergio Aguero is expected to overcome a back injury. Newcastle defender Paul Dummett has been ruled out for up to three months, while Cheick Tiote is out with a knee problem and Remy Cabella is doubtful.

PSG v Chelsea preview, 17/2/15

PSG v Chelsea, 19:45

It’d be easy to make some kind of barbed remark ahead of this game about a pair of new dukes that have bought their titles and history, while the old royalty sit at home and wish the money still flowed, but in reality just referencing that fact we can is good enough, and the whole area of mocking the rich is pretty unoriginal as far as football goes. The common consensus is that this is probably the best Chelsea team we’ve seen for some time and you know for a fact PSG have never been stronger on the international stage, so however you spin it this match could be both significant in the overall picture of the UEFA Champions League 2014/15, and exciting as these side clash in a contest littered with millionaire superstars and egos the size of small moons.

Paris St-Germain have a number of injury worries, including doubt over Yohan Cabaye, Marquinhos, Serge Aurier and Lucas Moura, who has a groin problem. John Mikel Obi is a doubt for Chelsea, but Oscar could feature after recovering from a knock of his own. There are two amazing teams on show here today for sure, but it may be that they are in the second tier of potential winners in many eyes, just behind the Bayerns and Barcas of the world.

FA Cup previews, 15/2/15

Aston Villa v Leicester, 12:30
Looking at the form guide for this game tells you one, impossible thing, that both sides should lose today. Home or away, Villa have been abject over their last ten games, picking up a grand total of no wins and just three points in that period. Things are barely any better for the Foxes, although one shining light for Nigel ‘the Throttler’ Pearson is that one of the two wins he’s managed in his last ten league games was over the midlands sides, and for that reason his players might also have more than the average amount of confidence, especially against a team with no manager and no-one lined up to impress.
Chris Wood and Matthew Upson will both have late fitness tests ahead of this game, but Yussuf Mulumbu still has no return date set for Leicester. Aston Villa have a relatively good squad right now in injury terms with only Libor Kozak and Philippe Senderos out today.

Bradford v Sunderland, 14:30
Giants are very much relative in the world of English cup football, but the gap between Sunderland and League One Bradford is probably big enough to say that one is possible today, should the circumstances allow. Sunderland may have lost five of their last eight league matches, and Bradford also may well have only tasted defeat twice in their last ten League One outings but the budget differences should make this an impossible task for the smaller team, although of course we know that is not the case in reality as Bradford themselves have demonstrated.
Billy Jones and Jack Rodwell could play for Sunderland today, but there is still a long injury list for the Black Cats including Emanuele Giaccherini, Anthony Revelliere, Lee Cattermole and Will Buckley.

Arsenal v Middlesbrough, 16:00
The last game of the day was a Premier League staple for years, and a lot of the fans will still remember Boro’s glorious UEFA Cup runs as well from days gone by, but as things stand this is a cross-division clash and a game that Arsenal are expected to win with ease. Even with the visitors top of the Championship and coming in off the back of five consecutive wins in that division it will be an extremely tough task, and although Arsene Wenger could be tempted to rotate his squad with the Champions League in mind there is a case for saying he has more depth than we’ve seen in years gone by, making that less of a risk.
Alexis Sanchez may not be risked by Arsenal today, but the Chilean is close to full fitness, good news as Arsenal have a host of players still out, with Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby are all vying for the physio’s time.

FA Cup previews, 14/2/15

West Brom v West Ham, 12:45
As much as his critics would like for it not to be the case, when you hire Tony Pulis you know your chances of surviving in the Premier League are greatly increased, and that is exactly what has happened to West Brom since bringing the Welshman in. One loss in their last six has seen the Baggies climb to fourteenth in the table, twelve points and six places below West Ham at the time of writing, and it’s now up to Pulis to work out whether it is worth trying to go further in the FA Cup, or whether the old pot represents a potential distraction from the main task at hand.
West Brom will have Chris Brunt as captain as new signing Darren Fletcher is cup tied, and lead strikerr Victor Anichebe is a doubt with a groin strain. Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble could return for West Ham, but Andy Carroll is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee problem.

Blackburn v Stoke, 15:00
Patchy form and the sort of stability you normally associate with a game of Jenga on the last turn has seen Blackburn go from a Premier League side to just another has-been in a very short period of time, and with the club languishing in the middle of the Championship table right now the FA Cup represents the closest thing they can hope for to glory this season. Going up against a very good Stoke side is a tough ask, but the former Premier League champions can console themselves with the hope that maybe the heavy defeat Stoke suffered to Man City will knock the Potters down a peg or two.
Bojan is still out for the long-term as far as Stoke are concerned, but Jon Walters could return for this match, and Jack Butland is set for a rare start, but overall the team should look very similar to the one that lost at Man City with players like Steven Ireland, Ryan Shawcross and Peter Odemwingie still out.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool, 17:30
Recent trips to Selhurst Park have been pretty unpleasant for Liverpool Football Club and their fans, and with the majority of the support not able to make it back home from the away game in under an hour as a Man Utd fan might that has left the Reds with a minor personal grudge against the Eagles. Scratching that itch won’t be possible for all the top names at Liverpool today, as a combination of injury and the potential for rotation should see some players rested or missing out, but it would be a cathartic and happy moment for Brendan Rodgers to leave this ground with some demons exorcised and a spot in the next round tied up to boot.
James McArthur (thigh) and Shola Ameobi (fitness) are ‘struggling’, but Pape Souare’s work permit has been sorted. Millen also says that Wayne Hennessey is in contention for a starting spot. For Liverpool, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard join Lucas and Jon Flanagan in the treatment room, and will miss this match.