Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action

By Sports Desk February 26, 2024

The midweek FA Cup fifth round fixtures will give several Premier League clubs the opportunity to make up for significant setbacks over the weekend.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag cannot afford another defeat after Saturday’s late drama against Fulham, while Chelsea must respond to Sunday’s Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points around the key fixtures.

United need a response

Saturday’s stoppage-time home defeat to Fulham has put Manchester United under pressure going into Wednesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest. With a trip to the Etihad up next on Sunday, United need a positive result to avoid going into a derby amid another round of crisis talks at Old Trafford. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s buy-in now complete and an overhaul of football operations under way, the pressure on Erik ten Hag will only ramp up, and he cannot afford to see their only remaining hope of silverware this season come to an end.

Liverpool to clear their hangovers

There were emotional celebrations for Liverpool and their outgoing manager Jurgen Klopp after Virgil van Dijk’s header late in extra time won the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea. Victory keeps Liverpool, top of the league by one point from Manchester City, alive in their bid for a quadruple as they remain among the favourites for both the FA Cup and the Europa League. Even with 120 minutes in their legs from Wembley, few would bet against them in a home tie against Championship Southampton.

Chelsea to bounce back

Mauricio Pochettino told his Chelsea players they needed to feel hurt by their Carabao Cup final loss, in which their performance in extra time prompted Gary Neville to call them “blue billion pound bottle jobs” on Sky Sports. Pochettino is yet to get a consistent tune out of his expensively-assembled squad, and Sunday’s defeat means the Argentinian has lost all three major finals he has reached while managing in England. The FA Cup offers an opportunity to put that right and their first opportunity to show a response comes on Wednesday, when they are favourites to see off Championship Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

Guardiola looking forward to intense period

As Manchester City return to Kenilworth Road to face Luton, where they had to come from behind to win 2-1 in the league in December, Pep Guardiola said he was relishing the decisive part of the season as his side look to replicate last season’s historic treble. Few would blame him given City’s enviable habit of reeling off long winning runs at this stage of a campaign. “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League,” Guardiola said. “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.”

Newcastle seeking consistency

Eddie Howe’s side slipped to ninth place with Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Arsenal, a mile off the sort of form that got them into the Champions League last term as a season best described as up and down continues. The best hope of returning to Europe next season may well lie with the FA Cup – a competition Newcastle are desperate to win to end their 55-year wait for major silverware. Although away from home, they should be firm favourites away to a Blackburn side still seeking a first win under new manager John Eustace. “This season can still be very special for us,” Howe said. “But we have to make it happen.”

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    Cole Palmer became the Premier League’s joint-leading scorer this season as his four goals helped Chelsea crush hapless Everton 6-0 at Stamford Bridge.

    The former Manchester City player now has 20 for the campaign and dismantled Sean Dyche’s side almost single-handedly, netting a hat-trick inside the first 29 minutes to breathe genuine momentum into his team’s bid to qualify for Europe.

    This was as complete a first half as Chelsea have managed under Mauricio Pochettino, displaying a clinical edge in front of goal that made the insipid attacking displays of earlier in the season feel like a distant memory.

    It was also a night for individuals. Moises Caicedo at the base of midfield gave a performance full of guile and maturity; rarely had he looked so in command in Chelsea colours.

    Nicolas Jackson, who scored the fourth goal, and Mykhailo Mudryk were superb, further turning the tide of opinion in their favour after slow starts to their careers in blue.

    Then there was Palmer, Chelsea’s talisman, who is surely now a contender to challenge his former Manchester City team-mate Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot.

    This was not a perfect 90 minutes and there are still issues for Pochettino to address. When his team were given a penalty at 4-0 up in the second half, there was the unsavoury spectacle of a physical altercation as Jackson and Noni Madueke each tried to take the ball from the appointed taker Palmer. It pointed to a failure of discipline and leadership that the manager must surely address.

    But it could not sour a fine night for home fans in west London, capped off fittingly when academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist fired in his first goal for the club in stoppage time.

    Chelsea had started the game sluggishly, narrowly avoiding going behind after nine minutes when Beto missed the target from four yards.

    As so often this season it required intervention from Palmer to shake them to life. Receiving the ball deep from Malo Gusto, he impudently nutmegged Jarrad Branthwaite, played a one-two with Jackson, then curled his finish wide of the dive of Jordan Pickford for his first goal of a remarkable first half.

    Soon the floodgates were open. After 17 minutes, Mudryk was played in down the left by Jackson who, receiving it back from the Ukrainian, shot first time. Pickford beat the ball out, but only to the feet of the arriving Palmer who grabbed his second.

    His finish for 3-0 was exquisite, but the opportunity came gift-wrapped from Pickford. The England goalkeeper tried to pick out Amadou Onana but came up short with his pass. In nipped Palmer and, undaunted by the 45-yard distance to goal, lobbed it into the net for his hat-trick.

    Jackson made it four before the break, showing exquisite touch to drag Marc Cucurella’s cross out of the air before turning and guiding the ball beyond the goalkeeper’s grasp into the corner.

    The 22-year-old has shown significant improvement in recent weeks, and his 13th goal of the season was surely his best so far for Chelsea.

    Palmer argued away Jackson and Madueke to make it five from the penalty spot just past the hour mark, then Gilchrist drilled into the bottom corner from Pickford’s parry at the death, as Chelsea moved to within three points of the top six.

  • Alejandro Garnacho spoken to by Erik ten Hag over social media activity Alejandro Garnacho spoken to by Erik ten Hag over social media activity

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    The Argentinian, taken off at half-time of their 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, liked two messages on X, formerly Twitter, by YouTuber Mark Goldbridge.

    One read: “Ten Hag subtly blaming Garnacho in the post match press conference… not a good look throwing a 19 year old under the bus who has actually delivered for you this season. But then again he’s clearly scared of upsetting the bigger earners.”

    The other said Garnacho “had a poor first half but taking him off at half time and holding him up as the problem is a joke”.

    Garnacho swiftly ‘unliked’ both messages – an action the club believes shows contrition – and a United source told the PA news agency the matter had been dealt with internally.

    In September Jadon Sancho’s post on X, saying he had been made a “scapegoat” and “I will not allow people saying things that (are) completely untrue” – interpreted as accusing Ten Hag of misrepresenting reasons why the winger was not in the side – led to the 24-year-old being banished from the first team before being loaned to Borussia Dortmund in January.

  • Fast-rising Reggae Boy, Kaheim Dixon, to consider future move after Jamaica Premier League season concludes Fast-rising Reggae Boy, Kaheim Dixon, to consider future move after Jamaica Premier League season concludes

    Kaheim Dixon, the talented young footballer currently representing Arnett Gardens in the Jamaica Premier League, is preparing to make a crucial decision about his future once the season concludes. Dixon, who has garnered interest from several European clubs and who has a preference for playing in Belgium, is weighing his options as he looks to further his career on the international stage.

    An exciting prospect while playing for DaCosta Cup champions, Clarendon College, Dixon's impressive performances on the field have caught the attention of scouts and club representatives, sparking discussions about potential opportunities abroad. With a strong desire to continue his development in a competitive environment, Dixon sees Europe as an ideal destination to advance his skills with Belgium being his preferred destination.

    "I'm focused on finishing the Jamaica Premier League season with Arnett Gardens before considering my next move," Dixon told Sportsmax.TV.

    Dixon's decision-making process will involve consultations with his club officials and discussions with his family to determine the best path forward for his career but explains his preference for where he would like to end up.

    "Playing in Belgium appeals to me because of their commitment to developing young players."

    Dixon made his senior debut for Jamaica’s Reggae Boys during the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Nations League against regional powerhouse, the United States and acquitted himself fairly well. His performance also convinced him that he is ready to play professional football.

    Reflecting on his CONCACAF Nations League campaign, Dixon shared insights from his experience. "I learned a lot. You have to be disciplined on and off the field," Dixon remarked. "In the game, you have to adjust quickly; only dribble in the attacking third."

    In response to the interest from European clubs, Dixon acknowledged the opportunity but stressed the need for continuous improvement. For now, though, he remains focused on winning the Jamaica Premier League title for Arnett Gardens.

    "It's a good thing that clubs are interested, but I've still got to improve on my season as well," he said.

     

     

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