FA Cup Semi-Final
Bolton v Stoke
I have a feeling that this could turn out to be a cracking game. As with many games whoever wins the midfield battle will probably win the match.
Stoke usually stick with a conventional 4-4-2 and often it is with Etherington and Pennant playing in fairly traditional wide positions – although Etherington is given a little bit more latitude to roam.
Without the injured Stuart Holden Bolton have bounced between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 which becomes 4-5-1 without the ball.
Both teams will eye this as a tremendous opportunity to make it Wembley.
Formed in 1863 Stoke has never appeared in an FA Cup Final. Bolton has won the trophy four times but the last win and final appearance came back in 1958 – ironically against Manchester United and it came only a couple of months after the Munich air disaster.
Arsenal v Liverpool
Liverpool – and in particular Andy Carroll – will be gung-ho after Monday night’s first half dismantling of Manchester City. Now they will look to not only put a knife into Arsenal’s slim hopes of the title but it would also encourage Chelsea in their quest for the runners-up spot.
With the exception of the 2-1 home win against Barcelona the truth is Arsenal have not played well for sometime even though they are unbeaten in 2011 in the Premier League.
This match and Wednesday’s trip to White Hart Lane are crucial games for Arsenal – no less than six points will suffice.
Three games in MLS on Sunday. Chicago Fire returns home after undergoing a boisterous welcome at the Portland Timbers on Thursday night and losing to boot. The visitors are the less than impressive Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy may have hot the Toronto FC frame three times on Wednesday but it should not mask the reality of a team that is stuttering this season.
The Portland Timbers will want to build on their 4-2 win as FC Dallas come to visit. I noted after a 2-o loss at Toronto FC that Jorge Perlaza looked like he could score goals if he got decent service – two goals against Chicago reinforced that notion.
FC Dallas finally got their season off and running after beating the Colorado Rapids a week past Friday. We will see if they can continue where they left off.
The third game features two teams that not so long ago dominated MLS – or at least MLS finals. But Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution have both hit rough patches and are slowly trying to reestablish themselves as forces in the league.
Napoli v Udinese
Considering Edinson Cavani was suspended Napoli pick up a very good 2-0 win last weekend at Bologna. Only Roma and Milan had taken three points on the road at Bologna so the result should not be underestimated.
This game can be considered one of the tricky encounters that often separate pretenders from champions. Udinese with two losses in their last two games have seen their top four hopes – or even an outside chance at the title – take a knock.
Alexis Sanchez missed last week’s dramatic loss to Roma and could well miss this game as well. Antonio di Natale is also a doubt so it might mean a combination of Bernardo Corradi and German Denis in attack – a very different style than di Natale and Sanchez.
One break for Udinese will be the return of Gokhan Inler back from suspension.
Other matches are Catania v Lazio, Cesena v Bari (3rd from bottom versus bottom) , Chievo v Bologna, Fiorentina v Juventus, Genoa v Brescia, and Lecce v Cagliari.
Bayer Leverkusen have narrowed the gap with top of the table Borussia Dortmund to five points with five game left. However, they also have the more difficult fixture this weekend when they travel to play 4th place Bayern Munich.
Bayern are looking to benefit from Hannover’s slip on Saturday when they drew 0-0 with Hamburg. This leaves the door open for Bayern to move into a Champions League spot above Hannover should they beat Bayer Leverkusen.
Borussia Dortmund looks to have a more routine task in hosting mid-table SC Freiburg.
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