From Elland Road to Celtic Park
It is extremely unusual for Manchester United to go into a game where they are not the focal point, but the FA Cup is not a usual competition. Crawley Town, with Torres and all, travel to Old Trafford, and it would be folly to even dwell on the fact that it is their biggest ever game, so obvious is that fact.
It is not exactly the David and Goliath fixture that it may appear, however. Crawley spend money like no other club in non-league, and have spent upwards of £500,000 on players this season.
It is a game that Manchester United will win but have everything to lose, and which Crawley will surely not win and yet have nothing to lose. Such is the FA Cup.
Chelsea go into this fourth round replay with a record of only winning five of their last 16 domestic games. Their opponents Everton are reported to be in crisis, and yet have only won one less game over the same period. And Everton were not aiming to win the Premier League.
Carlo Ancelotti cannot fail to be sweating slightly under the collar. He is manager of a team that spent fifty million on a striker that needs a goal, has an ageing squad that looks limp, and seems to be remarkably devoid of dramatic ideas for reinvigoration. The FA Cup becomes a priority because the Italian probably needs to win nearly every game until the end of the season for it to be a success.
Moyes described Everton’s performance against Bolton last Sunday as the worst of his nine year tenure. It was not even a capitulation but a mere damp offering, and sit-down-and-take-it from a club that Everton should be aiming to beat.
Many within the game will think that Chelsea owe someone a spanking, a game where things finally begin to click for the (still) current Premier League champions. If that takes place at Everton’s expense, and if they play a la the Reebok it could well do.
Football365 recently pondered that Everton needed Moyes more than Moyes needed Everton. And his patience is beginning to run thin.
Championship promotion race
The Championship race has to take a firm shape soon, surely? It is mid February and we still have any one of six or seven teams that could win the division. QPR looked solid but failed to take advantage of their opportunity against Forest last weekend, but this weekend they let four pretenders duke it out.
Forest host Cardiff with a 34 game unbeaten home record at stake, whilst Leeds host Norwich, both sides in ominously good form. While the Premier League title race is tight because many have under whelmed, the opposite is true in the league below.
And so Roy returns. Being unkind, it is possible to say that the nice Uncle of English football management has found a level to which he is more suited, away from the glare, the spotlight and the criticism of the Anfield hotseat.
One thing is certain, however, Hodgson has a job on his hands at the Hawthorns. They have gained five points from their last 30 available in the Premier League, and it that time have played West Ham, Wigan, Blackburn (twice), Blackpool, Fulham and Bolton. Last weekend against West Ham they capitulated from a position of seeming dominance. If your players cannot do the basics of defending against relegation rivals from a must-win position in a must-win game, there are serious issues to address.
Roy will hope that this position is more Craven Cottage than Anfield. I think football hopes so too.
It is almost an irrelevant statement, but the Scottish title race is a two horse race this year. Shock horror, I know. But whilst in previous years it seemed clear which of the Old Firm was the strongest, that is not the case this season, and both clubs have almost cat-and-moused each other, each taking turns to lead the way.
Celtic are five points clear. Rangers have two games in hand. This weekend the blue half visits the green half, and all well will undoubtedly break loose. That was guaranteed even before El Hadji Diouf signed.