Monday, 20 February 2017

Reds into the quarter finals where Chelsea await

After three wins over Championship opposition, United will face our toughest test to date in the FA Cup defence.

The Reds have overcome Reading, Wigan and Blackburn en route to the quarter finals for the third season in a row.

In a bid for back-to-back Cups for the first time ever, the draw for the last eight did not treat the holders nicely, however.

We were handed the toughest possible tie, a trip to Jose's old side and league-champions elect Chelsea. 

Antonio Conte's side sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and, in contrast to United's congested fixture list, the Blues have no European commitments to contend with ahead of the tie. 

The Reds knocked out West Ham at the same stage last season with a 2-1 replay win at Upton park after a harum scrum draw at Old Trafford.

This season, though, replays will not be used to settle the quarter finals so the tie will be decided on the night - with extra time and penalties if required.

Both managers, however, will be permitted the use of a fourth substitute during the additional 30 minutes as the FA look to aid potential fixture congestion. 

United have a poor record against the west London side having not beaten them since 2011 (a winless sequence of 12 matches) and - we'd rather forget this - were beaten 4-0 on their last visit there in October.

The Reds are much improved since then with that defeat our only one in the last 24 matches, so a repeat scoreline looks unlikely.

With the hosts chasing a domestic league and cup double, and the visitors still in contention for a cup treble, there will be a lot on the line when the two English heavyweights collide for a place at Wembley. 

The quarter final will be played on 10, 11, 12 or 13 March which means that United's league game at Southampton (scheduled for Sunday 12) will be postponed. 

It was at the corresponding stage in 2012-13 that the two sides last locked horns in the competition, when the Blues - then managed by Rafa Benitez - knocked United out at the second attempt after a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. 

 In the other quarter finals, Spurs host Millwall in a London derby and Middlesbrough will host the winners of the Huddersfield - Manchester City replay.

Lincoln stunned Premier League Burnley to set up a tie at either Arsenal or fellow National League side Sutton United. 

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