The FA Cup quarter-finals are upon us and the highlight of the round is Leicester hosting Manchester United.
This is a battle between second and third place in the Premier League, and a renewal of a competitive rivalry from last season where both sides battled it out for third place all the way to the end of the campaign.
One point is all that separates them in the Premier League table, but on Sunday they will go head-to-head at the King Power stadium. Who will triumph? How will they line-up? What will happen? We’ve come up with five predictions for the quarter-final clash.
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1. Leicester to line up like…
The cup is everything for Leicester. They were eliminated from the Europa League by Slavia Prague and they obviously won’t be winning the Premier League, so this is their only hope of silverware this season. Obviously, Brendan Rodgers will want to guide his team into the Champions League after missing out last season, but they will want to win this, and after a week of rest will send out a full-strength team to do it.
The big decision for Rodgers to make is whether to start Ayoze Perez (after his impressive display against Sheffield United) or Hamza Choudhury to add more defensive protection. Knowing that he can always bring Perez on later, it’s likely that Rodgers goes with the young Englishman to help the Foxes dominate the midfield.
2. Manchester United to line up like…
The Red Devils have endured a long and difficult season, with fixtures and injuries coming as thick and fast as each other. This FA Cup tie will be the sixth game played in their last three weeks (United haven’t had a midweek off since the second week of January) and fatigue will be a real concern, so Solskjaer will have to rotate his team slightly.
The return of Paul Pogba to fitness will be a huge boost and you can expect to see Solskjaer mix-and-match with his midfield, with Scott McTominay and Fred’s exertions in Milan seeing them replaced by the Frenchman and Nemanja Matic. Alex Telles will rotate with Luke Shaw, as Shaw took the Brazilian’s usual place in the Europa League. And United will be hoping to call on Edinson Cavani from the bench.
3. Vardy to score again
Jamie Vardy has scored just once since Christmas Day, and it was a goal put on a plate for him by some catastrophic defending from Alisson and Ozan Kabak when Liverpool visited the King Power. Beyond that, Vardy has been drawing blanks.
In just the 12 games played in the league since then, Vardy has taken 27 shots for that solitary goal against Liverpool. It’s been an abysmal return in front of goal and has already led to the Foxes crashing out of Europe (they managed 19 shots against Slavia Prague and were one of just three teams who failed to score in the round-of-32).
However, everything comes to an end and Vardy’s problematic run in front of goal is no different. It’s fitting that a scoreless (for all intents and purposes) streak that began against Manchester United will end with them too. This Sunday, Vardy will find a way to find the back of the net.
4. Pogba to strut his stuff
Pogba has been missing from the Manchester United XI for 40 days but returned to action in midweek against AC Milan. He should start against Leicester and when he does, United fans will get a stark reminder of what they were missing for all those weeks.
In Pogba’s absence, United have drawn with West Brom and Crystal Palace and limped to a pair of underwhelming 1-0 wins against West Ham, too. They are in desperate need of the Frenchman’s sparkling creativity to drive them forward through midfield and ensure that opponents cannot clamp down on the side by simply marking Bruno Fernandes.
With Wilfred Ndidi around, Fernandes will find space very hard to come by at the King Power Stadium, and that’s where Pogba will be essential. Leicester will try and stop him too, but with the majority of their resources devoted to stopping Fernandes, the Frenchman will strut his stuff against Leicester and be the game’s standout player.
5. United ride to Wembley
While Vardy is likely to score (he has five goals against United), that won’t be enough to tip the result. In fact, while Leicester famously beat United 5-3 in 2014 (Vardy’s first game against the Red Devils), that was the last time they have done so. Since then, Devil has met Fox on 13 occasions and the result has been four draws and nine wins for United.
Solskjaer will, of course, respect Rodgers’ Leicester, and the match will not be a drubbing, but in the end, United will simply have too much for Leicester to cope with. Whether it’s a Pogba banger, a Fernandes special, a penalty, or something wonderful from Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood, United will find a way to win the match and make their second-straight FA Cup semi-final.