The last-16 ties of the FA Cup are played on Tuesday and Wednesday night in England on a rare occasion when a round of the tournament is played in midweek.
Critics will argue that scheduling the fixtures in midweek highlights the fact that the FA Cup has lost some of its glamor, with the FIFA World Cup in November and December partly responsible for compressing this season’s fixture calendar.
However, there could still be plenty to excite lovers of cup drama as Brighton face a complicated match away to second-tier Stoke City.
Brighton have impressed this season and knocked Liverpool out in the last round, but the match will show if they can match the old cliche – ‘can they perform on a cold Tuesday in Stoke?’
Leicester City are once again missing attacking midfielder James Maddison and that could make for an intriguing tie at home to Blackburn Rovers, who travel to Leicester fourth in the Championship after three consecutive wins.
Javi Gracia started his reign at Leeds United with a vital win in their relegation clash at home to Southampton at the weekend, but with another vital match away to Chelsea next Saturday, Gracia may opt to rotate his squad for the visit to play Fulham.
Marco Silva’s men are having an excellent season and currently lie sixth in the Premier League, although striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is a doubt with a thigh injury, and his absence reduces Fulham’s attacking threat.
The glamor of the FA Cup is represented when fourth-tier Grimsby Town make the long trip to Southampton on Saturday.
Grimsby have beaten three Championship sides on their way into the last-16 and will be cheered on by thousands of fans all waving their inflatable ‘Harry the Haddock’ mascot.
Manchester United lifted the Carabao Cup on Sunday and will be favorites against West Ham United, who are coached by former United boss David Moyes.
Moyes cast caution to the wind as his side beat Nottingham Forest 4-0 at the weekend, but he will need his strikers to be at their best to end United’s unbeaten run at home.
Tottenham travel to Championship promotion hopefuls Sheffield United after having beaten Chelsea on Sunday, and Wednesday also sees Championship leaders Burnley at home to League One’s Fleetwood Town, in what is also a north-west derby between two clubs separated by just over 50 kilometers. ■