FA Cup: Everton vs. Manchester United
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Kick off: 5:15pm
Two sides that have struggled to meet expectations this season face off at Wembley on Tuesday, aiming to keep their FA Cup hopes alive at the semi-final stage.
Everton and Manchester United are currently separated by 18 points in the English top flight, but a tense match is expected in London this weekend in what has all the hallmarks of a classic cup tie.
All managers know exactly just how cynical the world of football can be when in the dugout, which Roberto Martinez is continuing to learn the hard way during his tenure at Goodison Park.
Having been lauded as a messiah in his first campaign on Merseyside, taking over from David Moyes and bringing a fresh feel to the club, the Spaniard has since produced nothing but mediocrity in the view of supporters.
Going all the way in the FA Cup would at the very least provide supporters with something to celebrate, though, and it is not exactly like the blue side of Merseyside has had much luck on the silverware front in recent times.
Like him or loathe him, you have got to respect the way in which Louis van Gaal has constantly pulled big results out of the bag just when his days appear to be numbered at Old Trafford.
The latest example of that came a little over a week ago when the Red Devils kept their cup hopes alive by edging out West Ham United in a thrilling tie at Upton Park – the last ever to be staged at the famous East London venue.
One defeat in eight in all competitions certainly makes things look rosy on the face of it, but dig a little deeper and there is still a cause for concern for those supporters who have grown tired of the Dutchman’s bland style of play.
Results have largely been efficient on the whole, however, ensuring that the 11-time winners of the FA Cup still remain in contention for a top-four finish as well as lifting a trophy at Wembley in May – not quite the disastrous season that it has been made out to be by some.
Keeping apace with Arsenal and Manchester City in the race for fourth largely explains why Van Gaal opted to field a strong side in the routine 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday night; a match that included a second successive start for skipper Wayne Rooney.
It has now been 12 years since they last lifted the cup, in fact, while you have to go back to 2007 to find the last time the English heavyweights even contested in the final, where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in Wembley’s domestic bow.
The Red Devils have lost each of their last two semi-final matches at the famous ground, too, slipping up against Everton in 2009 and Manchester City in 2011 in their most recent visit, although not since 1970 have they lost three on the bounce at this stage.
Everton possible starting lineup: Joel, Baines, Jagielka, Stones, Oviedo, McCarthy, Cleverley, Mirallas, Lennon, Barkley, Lukaku.
Manchester United possible starting lineup: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Lingard, Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney, Martial, Rashford.