Pearson Previews Manchester United’s Premier League weekend (and the FA Cup of course)

Five of the top six sides do not have a league game this weekend due to involvement in the FA Cup. Liverpool are the only side playing and so could move six points ahead of Man United in the race for Champions League qualification. Monday night is the final tie of the FA Cup Quarter Finals and is possibly the most balanced match as Manchester United travel to Chelsea. Both sides have other commitments this season but with Chelsea 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League they could afford to play their strongest side in this game. Manchester United however will be in Russia on European duty just five days prior to this game so it is unclear yet as to what team they will field. When the sides met in the league at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season it was Chelsea who won 4-0.

After their early exit from the FA Cup Liverpool have an opportunity to build momentum when they face Burnley at Anfield. Three unbeaten home games in a row against their top four rivals has seen the side get over their January slump in form and are now just four points off second place in the table. They welcome a Burnley side which has already beaten them this season but have only five points in their last six games. Burnley have scored in each of their last 11 Premier League games and so the Liverpool back line must be at their best.

Everton could move within a point of Manchester United in 6th with a victory over West Brom on Saturday. Having suffered their first league defeat since December last time out, they will be looking to return to winning ways at Goodison Park. West Brom had a disappointing loss at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, their first to a team below them since September. Having reached the 40 point mark last month, motivation may be low for the Baggies but they are only four points behind Everton and possible Europa League qualification. Last time these teams met in August it was a 2-1 away win for Everton.

Hull City entertain Swansea at the KCOM Stadium this weekend in what is a must win game for the Tigers. Having received plaudits for improved performances of late, Hull are still not picking up enough points as they battle relegation. A win this weekend would see them move within a point of safety but with a far worse goal difference. A point for Swansea could be enough to see them climb as high as 14th in the league. A team which at some points earlier this season looked to be amongst the worst in the league have now turned it around and look certain to avoid the drop. Four wins in their last six has pulled them five points clear of the drop zone.

The final league game for the weekend sees West Ham United travel to Bournemouth. A draw will be enough to move West Ham into the top half of the league, where as Bournemouth need to pick up points before they slide closer to the bottom three. West Ham have scored 13 goals in their last seven games and face a defence which will be missing key players through suspension. Bournemouth are still without a win since December 31st and currently sit five points away from relegation.

All other Premier League games are postponed due to the FA Cup Quarter Finals.

Middlesbrough are at home to Manchester City. Both sides last game was against Stoke and they had differing results. Middlesbrough lost 2-0 away at the Bet365 stadium last weekend and fell into the bottom three due to other results. Man City however suffered a frustrating 0-0 home draw on Wednesday evening. After resting some key attackers they were unable to breach a robust Stoke defence.

Saturday’s other cup tie is between two sides at opposite ends of the football pyramid. Arsenal play host to non league side Lincoln at the Emirates and both sides have differing form. Lincoln are the inform team at the moment and have conceded just once in their last five games. Arsenal on the other hand have just wins over Hull and Sutton United in the last five games but you wouldn’t expect them to struggle in this game.

Tottenham play host to Millwall at White Hart Lane on Sunday and have scored 12 goals in their last four games in all competitions. Sitting in second in the Premier League and an exit from Europe recently, the FA Cup will likely be Spurs only chance at silverware this season. Millwall are unbeaten in their last five, but have scored just four in the time. The progressed from the last round due to a last gasp winner at home to Leicester.

Although Man United are not directly involved in Premier League action this weekend the game at Anfield could still impact greatly on their season. Anything but a win for Liverpool could open the door for the teams around them to close the gap on the top four. United will have games in hand over their rivals.