London: Both the Premier League and FA Cup quarter-finals take place this weekend, with both Manchester Clubs eyeing a Wembley date in the knockout competition and Liverpool eager to take over once again at the top of the league standings.
Pep Guardiola remains coy about Manchester City’s chances of winning the quadruple, but his side face Swansea in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday standing just 16 games away from a clean sweep of all four major trophies.
Guardiola’s team moved closer to the unprecedented silverware haul on Tuesday as they advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 7-0 demolition of Schalke in the last 16, second leg.
City have already won the League Cup, beating Chelsea in last month’s final, but that has not quenched Guardiola’s thirst for more success.
A victory at second-tier Swansea would see City move into the FA Cup semi-finals, with the Premier League title race set to go down to the wire.
City are one point clear of second-placed Liverpool and although the reigning champions would be knocked off top spot if the Reds win at Fulham on Sunday, they will have a game in hand.
In a bid to keep the pressure off his players, Guardiola has tried to talk down the possibility of City winning all four trophies, something that no team in the history of the English game has managed.
After winning at Arsenal and Chelsea in earlier rounds, Manchester United face another difficult FA Cup away tie, this time at Molineux. A Saturday night duel under the floodlights, with a Wembley appearance up for grabs, is sure to generate a noisy atmosphere. That will give extra impetus to a Wolves team who have enjoyed a fine season so far, and been particularly strong against top-six teams. Recognising that, and the way Wolves shackled Chelsea for long periods last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may take a cautious approach and look to strike through counter-attacks. This has the makings of a tight game and a showdown that could go all the way to a late-night shoot-out.
Sunday’s quarter-final between Millwall and Brighton at the Den looks, on paper at least, the most obvious place for an FA Cup upset. Millwall have beaten five of the last seven top-flight teams to visit them in this competition, and face a Brighton side who are often poor travellers. Since beating Everton in the fourth round, however, Millwall are winless at home, relying on away wins at Derby and Birmingham to keep them out of the Championship’s bottom three. FA Cup exploits have also distracted from a league wobble for Brighton, although the win at Crystal Palace boosted both their survival prospects and their away record — now a healthy three wins in six, including the Cup run. Success at Selhurst Park will have also eased fears of a repeat of 1983 — when the Seagulls took Manchester United to a Cup final replay, but were relegated.
In the Premier League, riding the crest of a wave after their superb victory over Bayern Munich, Liverpool have the perfect opportunity to edge back in front in a titanic Premier League title race at struggling Fulham on Sunday.
Liverpool have the chance to sneak two points clear of Guardiola’s City side with victory at Craven Cottage.
While City would then have a game in hand, points in the bag at this stage of a title run-in, especially with big Champions League clashes looming on the horizon, can be a huge advantage.
Burnley’s defeat at Anfield left them dangling just two points above the relegation zone. They’ve lost three in a row in the league now, undoing the good work they did going unbeaten in the league from late December to the end of February. They host Leicester this weekend, a team who have looked fluent and tactically flexible — everything Burnley are not — since Brendan Rodgers took charge. Sean Dyche’s side have become all too predictable in their past three games, hitting easy-to-read balls into channels and relying heavily on set pieces to create chances. With Cardiff not playing this weekend and then facing Chelsea and Manchester City, Burnley have a chance to pull clear of danger. To do so, they will have to loosen up and try to be more creative. Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood are adept at breaking up play but Burnley need to use the ball better in home games. Dwight McNeil’s bold wing play caught the eye at Anfield and Jeff Hendrick was a pesky menace too — perhaps Dyche should look to the flanks to get the creative juices flowing.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
■ Watford v Crystal Palace, 4.15pm
■ Swansea City v Manchester City, 9.20pm
■ Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United, 11.55pm
■ Millwall v Brighton, 6pm
■ Bournemouth v Newcastle United, 7pm
■ Burnley v Leicester City, 7pm
■ West Ham United v Huddersfield, 7pm
■ Fulham v Liverpool, 6.15pm,
■ Everton v Chelsea, 8.30pm