3 Fascinating ties to watch in the Fifth Round | FA Cup 2019-20
It’s generally accepted these days that the FA Cup has slipped down the ladder when it comes to its overall importance in the world of football; the final in May is no longer the marquee fixture of the year, and, as Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have shown this week, most clubs now prioritise league or European action over it. With all that said, the FA Cup can still throw up some fantastic fixtures to look forward to, and while there is just one lower league side left in the competition – League One’s Portsmouth – there is plenty of intrigue around the following 3 Fifth Round clashes.
1. Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Much was made over Jurgen Klopp’s decision to “play the kids” in this week’s Fourth Round replay with League One side Shrewsbury Town, with some fans and pundits even claiming the German boss was disrespecting the English game. But while his own failure to attend the game is another conversation altogether, the truth is that Klopp hasn’t prioritised the FA Cup this season from the get-go.
Their Third Round match with Everton saw the involvement of just 6 senior players in the starting line-up, while the original Fourth Round tie with Shrewsbury also featured the same number. Going into the Fifth Round though, surely that must change given the identity of the Reds’ opponents.
Liverpool have been drawn against Chelsea – at Stamford Bridge nonetheless – in the biggest tie of the round, and although Klopp’s side currently sit a massive 32 points ahead of Frank Lampard’s team in the Premier League table, it’s basically a given that Liverpool’s young guns are not capable of overcoming a side like the Blues right now.
Klopp clearly knows that it’s the Premier League title which would turn his side into immortals in the eyes of the fans, and after that, another Champions League victory would be truly incredible. But with the league title all but won, an FA Cup victory would be the icing on a very special cake. That means he’s likely to unleash the full power of his squad – including Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and the rest – against Lampard’s men.
But Lampard also must know that with Liverpool’s minds elsewhere, this could be his young side’s chance to claim a major scalp – even if it’s in what is considered a secondary competition these days. This is definitely the tie to watch.
2. Derby County vs. Manchester United
A cup tie between EFL Championship side Derby County and Premier League giants Manchester United normally wouldn’t mean all that much, but in this instance, fate has thrown a major curveball into the match in the form of one Wayne Rooney.
The former England captain is, of course, the Red Devils’ all-time record scorer with 253 goals across 13 seasons, winning a huge haul of 12 major trophies during his time at Old Trafford. In the upcoming match with Derby though, he’ll be facing off against his former side after joining the Rams as a player-coach at the start of 2020 following a successful spell at DC United.
Rooney has already made an impact on Derby’s fortunes; the 34-year old has scored 3 goals and registered 2 assists in his 8 games with the club, and Phillip Cocu’s side have only lost a single game since the arrival of the former United legend.
Derby have flattered to deceive this season in the Championship, perhaps missing the influence of former boss Frank Lampard – as well as the on-field skills of Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori who both followed Lampard back to Chelsea – but this game against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils could be their chance for a slice of glory.
Solskjaer’s side only ever seem one loss away from a crisis, and while they comfortably defeated Tranmere Rovers in the Fourth Round, a match against a Rooney-driven Derby could be something different entirely. If the legend could get one over on his former employers, it’d make for headline news everywhere. This tie should indeed be fascinating.
3. West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United
Usually, an FA Cup Fifth Round tie between a mid-level Premier League side and a side from the EFL Championship wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this instance, the match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United has a little more intrigue around it because it could provide neutrals with a fascinating glimpse of the future.
That’s because it’s clear now that despite their various struggles, Steve Bruce’s Magpies look set to remain in the Premier League next season, while Slaven Bilic’s Baggies currently sit at the top of the Championship table, a point clear of nearest rivals Leeds United – but four points clear of the chasing pack for the automatic promotion spots.
A collapse for the Baggies isn’t yet out of the realm of possibility – their win over Luton Town last weekend was their first in the league since December 14th, ending a winless run of 7 games, but with the likes of Matheus Pereira, Charlie Austin, Matt Phillips – and Grady Diangana, who should be back from injury in a few weeks – it seems likely that Bilic will lead his side into the Premier League.
Therefore, this clash between the Baggies and the Magpies could represent what life in the top flight could be like for West Brom and their players. Newcastle aren’t one of the Premier League’s powerhouses – League Two side Oxford United took them to a replay in the Fourth Round after all – but Bruce’s men seem euphoric about making the latter rounds of the FA Cup for the first time in well over a decade, meaning they’ll be gunning for victory.
If West Brom can, therefore, overcome the Magpies, then it will bode well for a likely run in the Premier League in 2020-21. It’s definitely a tie worth watching.
Published 05 Feb 2020, 16:25 IST