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FourFourTwo's football preview: What will and won't happen this weekend

Middlesbrough vs Manchester City (FA Cup)

Opta Fact

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)

Opta Fact

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)

Opta Fact

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)

Opta Fact

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. 

Bournemouth vs West Ham (Premier League)

Opta Fact

Bournemouth averaged the highest kilometres per game in the Premier League last season (117), but this season that has dropped by 3.6km to 113.4km per game – the joint-7th best. 

The big talking point: A tougher Bournemouth? Amid the flurry of controversy, Eddie Howe's team actually played extremely well at Old Trafford. They gave up plenty of chances and had to rely on Artur Boruc's reflexes for their point, but that they survived at all with 10 men was significant given that they entered that fixture off the back of four straight losses. This, then, is a chance to further arrest their alarming mid-season decline.

What will happen: A milestone will be reached. Andy Carroll is one short of 50 Premier League goals (a commentary on his injury difficulties if ever there was one) and he is also averaging the best minutes-per-goal ratio (148) of his career. Bournemouth were improved against Manchester United and showed new strains of organisation in their penalty box, but whether they're equipped to handle English football's most unique threat is another question entirely. If West Ham can get their delivery right (looking at you, Robert Snodgrass), this could well be a profitable afternoon.

What won't: A Bournemouth clean sheet. We make the same point every week but, until the club's 2.6 goals-conceded-per-game average starts to fall, there's no need to stop. Bournemouth concede a lot of goals which are the product of technical mismatches and their defence – respectfully – not receiving the investment it needs. But they concede sloppily, too, and seem incapable of eradicating basic errors from their game.

Hull vs Swansea (Premier League)

Opta Fact

Fernando Llorente has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances. The Spaniard hasn’t scored in three successive league appearances since January 25, 2014 for Juventus in Serie A.

The big talking point: Hull's central defence. It will have escaped nobody's notice that Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente have become increasingly influential under Paul Clement, or that Hull will be missing Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson this weekend. (Yes, that's the sound of ominous organ music playing at the KC Stadium.) Swansea's delivery from wide positions has improved greatly and Objective No.1 for Marco Silva's players is to stop that supply. 

What will happen: Swansea win this. Sigurdsson's form is pertinent, but Martin Olsson and Luciano Narsingh should have the effect of nullifying Silva's attacking full-backs and infiltrating the space behind them. Should his players take all three points here, Clement will be able to put the threat of relegation in the rear-view mirror.

What won't: A calm finish. All the goals scored by Hull against Swansea this season have come in the last 15 minutes and, between them, these two teams have conceded 58 goals in the last 30 minutes of games this year. Needless to say, that's the most in the competition.

Everton vs West Brom (Premier League)

Opta Fact

West Brom haven’t kept a clean sheet in four consecutive away top-flight games against an opponent since March 1925 (a run of five against Birmingham). 

The big talking point: Not quite "big", but Romelu Lukaku has never scored a Goodison Park goal against his former club. His goal at White Hart Lane last weekend moved him to 78 Premier League goals before his 24th birthday (one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo) and, given that the loss to Crystal Palace will have stung Tony Pulis into restrictive action, this would be an excellent time to add to that total. It'll be tight, settled by one goal (if at all), and Ronald Koeman needs Lukaku to fire. 

What will happen: Pulis will manage his 300th Premier League game. And what fun they've all been! The goals we've seen, the laughs we've had... OK, but whether he's an anachronism or not, that's a mark of impressive longevity. As a measure of the job he's doing in the Midlands, West Brom need three more points to equal their tally from the whole of last year.

What won't: An Everton win. Koeman has improved this side, but not really as an attacking force. They are winless in the last three Goodison Park games against West Brom, implying that this set of players don't really know the way through Pulis's forest of centre halves.

Liverpool vs Burnley (Premier League)

Opta Fact

Liverpool lost the reverse of this fixture 0-2 back in August, recording the highest-ever possession figure for a losing team in a Premier League match since 2003/04 (80.4%). 

The big talking point: Liverpool's form in lesser fixtures. The Reds are typically excellent in the big games, but this – as everyone knows – is the kind of game in which they struggle. Sean Dyche, informed by Burnley's appalling away record, will bank his players up and encourage his defenders to play the ball long towards Sam Vokes and Andre Gray. So, starved of turnovers, can Liverpool be productive on the front foot?

What will happen: A Joey Barton red card. Barton is the only player in Premier League history to be sent off at Anfield for two different teams (Manchester City and Newcastle). Regardless of whether he's punished for his actions or not, there's something about this ground which brings out the worst in him. So expect pantomime villainy, dark arts and, perhaps, costly sanction.

What won't: Any change in tradition. So – deep breath – Burnley haven't won at Anfield since 1974, haven't won both league games against Liverpool in a season since 1929/30, and take the worst away record in the division to Merseyside. And, despite their struggles, Liverpool haven't actually lost to a newly promoted side since 2010/11 (Blackpool). It's not happening, is it?

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