England’s FA Cup is losing its appeal. Never before has the competition’s demise been so evident as last weekend when Manchester City, a club struggling for form, decided to field a reserve team in their clash with Chelsea. The Blues smashed the visitors 5-1 and sadly Manuel Pellegrini and his squad didn’t seem at all bothered by the humiliation.
To be fair, Manchester City does have bigger fish to fry. Two consecutive defeats in the league have condemned them to fourth on the ladder and their FA Cup tie was sandwiched between tough league fixtures and their Champions League Round of 16 trip to face Dynamo Kyiv.
Compared to Arsenal, who have drawn the mighty Barcelona in Europe, the Ukrainian club is a relatively easy opponent. Manchester City have the best opportunity to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in its Premier League history and this competition appears to be their one remaining title hope this season. Given Pellegrini’s imminent departure at the end of the season, the Champions League trophy would be a spectacular way to say farewell.
While City basically gave away their FA Cup hopes, cross-city rivals Manchester United knew they had to win their tie against League One club Shrewsbury following a league defeat to relegation-bound Sunderland and another to European minnows Midtjylland in the Europa League last week. Fortunately for under-siege manager Louis Van Gaal, his side did the job in a 3-0 win over the weekend.
But Tottenham Hotspur, whose main focus is on the league, also give up their FA Cup hopes as they were knocked out at home by Crystal Palace. With the big guns rapidly falling, it will be interesting to see who is willing to focus on winning the FA Cup now that the big games are approaching.
FA Cups quarter-final fixtures:
Everton vs Chelsea
Arsenal/Hull vs Watford
Reading vs Crystal Palace
Manchester United vs West Ham United