FourFourTwo's football preview: What will and won't happen this weekend
Middlesbrough vs Manchester City (FA Cup)
- Middlesbrough have eliminated Manchester City in four of their last five FA Cup meetings, most recently in the fourth round in 2014/15 while a second-tier team.
The big talking point: Aitor Karanka's future. There was a rumour last week that, should Boro lose to Stoke, Karanka was set for the job centre. It proved false: they lost, didn't score (again), and yet Karanka is still in employment. His side have quietly sunk into the Premier League relegation zone lately and, although the cup is far from a priority, there's an imperative need for positive momentum at the club. Knocking over City won't alleviate their week-to-week worries, but it might just germinate some belief in a side who look increasingly bereft of confidence.
What will happen: A weakened City. Pep Guardiola's focus is split between the league and City's continued participation in Europe. Though they drew with Stoke on Wednesday night, they remain odds-on to finish inside the top four and, with the return leg of their Champions League tie with Monaco just days away, expect some legs to be rested. Good news for Boro... and good news for Fabian Delph.
What won't: Fun. Don't watch this. Don't do that to yourself. This will be an obdurate struggle between a team paralysed by fear and a side only semi-bothered by progression. Saturday 12.15pm? Go outside, have a walk, or maybe even spend the time paying your Council Tax.
Arsenal vs Lincoln (FA Cup)
- Arsenal last played Lincoln in March 1915, losing 1-0 to them away from home in a second division match.
The big talking point: Romance. Could it? Before Tuesday night, Lincoln maybe had a 1% chance of progression. After Arsenal's chastening loss to Bayern Munich, that might just have risen to 2%. The stars need to align, the Earth needs to rock on its axis and the Emirates may need to have been built on a cursed ancient burial ground, but stranger things have happened. Although not many.
What will happen: Lincoln will play Arsenal for the first time in 102 years. Their pre-1915 form wasn't too hot, either: they lost 10 and drew 3 of the 13 fixtures.
What won't: Swindon's record to be broken. The Robins were the last non-league team to take part in an FA Cup semi-final (in 1912) and, even with the weight of the entire country's goodwill behind them, Lincoln face a next-to-impossible task.
Tottenham vs Millwall (FA Cup)
- The last time Tottenham played Millwall in the FA Cup, they went on to lift the trophy that year (1966/67).
The big talking point: Off-the-field 'matters'. Absence has likely not made hearts grow any fonder and, suffice to say, elements of these respective fanbases still strongly dislike each other. The prevailing hope is that this fixture avoids its obvious association and that neither the respective old guards nor their imitation replacements are able to make this about anything other than the game itself.
What will happen: A Harry Kane goal. Scorer of 20 in his last 22 London derbies and a former Millwall loanee, some things just seem inevitable. The only 'if' relates to whether Kane actually plays or whether, having re-embraced Vincent Janssen, Mauricio Pochettino rests his red-hot forward.
What won't: Millwall to get overwhelmed. Neil Harris's players have knocked out three Premier League teams to get this far and have kept clean sheets in four of their five games, last conceding to Braintree in round two. Spurs are obviously heavy favourites, but Millwall won't play with any kind of inferiority complex. Lots of commitment and absolute dedication; if they go down, they will do so swinging.
Chelsea vs Manchester United (FA Cup)
- The last time Jose Mourinho reached an FA Cup semi-final was in 2006/07, when he went on to beat his current club Manchester United in the final.
The big talking point: Antonio Conte's cup record. Interestingly, despite Juventus's domestic supremacy during his time in Turin, Conte never quite captured the Coppa Italia. He reached the final in 2012, but was eliminated in the semi-finals in 2013, and the quarters in 2014. Chelsea surrendered meekly to West Ham in the EFL Cup so, with the Premier League virtually won and no European competition to take part in, this represents an opportunity to end an unwanted managerial duck and complete a double in his maiden English season.
What will happen: Jose Mourinho will do something. Because he will inevitably find a way to make this about him. Conte is so demonstrative on the touchline and draws the camera so naturally that Mourinho, now a visitor in a place he once called home, will almost certainly be drawn into some kind of skullduggery. And Manchester United look favourites to be eliminated, which always brings out his dark, conspiratorial side.
What won't: Zlatan-less Manchester United to score. United have managed just three goals in their last nine games with Chelsea. A brutal statistic, compounded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic's suspension. The talismanic Swede has scored 15 goals in 25 league games this season, while nobody else has managed more than Juan Mata's six. Perhaps this will just give someone else a chance, though.