The pursuit of league points is placed on the back burner for a host of Premier League sides this weekend as the FA Cup returns. The Six Round ties will be played on Saturday and Sunday, followers having plenty to look forward to. This year’s renewal of English football’s favourite knockout competition has already thrown up its fair share of surprise results. Will we be treated to more shocks in the coming days? Neutrals certainly hope so.
Premier League duo Sheffield United and Arsenal meet at Bramall Lane from 13:00 GMT on Sunday, kick-starting three FA Cup matches played that afternoon. The Blades are enjoying a thrilling season and would love to gift their supporters at least one more round of the FA Cup. A rare appearance at Wembley Stadium is the aim for all connected to The Blades.
Sunday’s match will be the third meeting of Sheffield United and Arsenal this season. The Gunners are yet to defeat their hosts and suffered a surprise loss at Bramall Lane back in October, beaten by a single goal from Mousset on that occasion. Arteta’s men know this competition rates as their only chance of lifting silverware this season but Arsenal have a good reputation in the FA Cup. They’ll want to reach the next round at the first time of asking, avoiding the need for a replay.
Blades battle past Reading
It has already proven to be a memorable season for followers of Sheffield United. The Blades finished second in the Championship last term and were promoted to the Premier League as a result. Many expected them to struggle at a higher level, but they have performed above expectations and are currently pushing for a European finish. A spot in the Europa League looks to be their best bet but a top-four finish and place in next season’s Champions League remains a possibility. While that is the case, Sheff Utd will continue to aim as high as possible.
Chris Wilder’s men returned from lockdown with a rather disappointing goalless draw away to Aston Villa on Wednesday 17 June, a game they had opportunities to win. They followed that with defeat at St James Park four days later, hammered 3-0 by Newcastle United. Two poor efforts from Sheffield United but they must dust themselves down if they are to have any hope of continuing their FA Cup adventure. Sunday’s game must be respected as a one-off, knockout game where league form doesn’t count for much.
Sheff Utd booked their spot in the Sixth Round thanks to an away win over Reading on Tuesday 3rd March. They took the lead that day through a goal for McGoldrick inside two minutes but were pegged back when Puscas equalised from the penalty spot just before half-time. The score at 90 minutes was 1-1, forcing the teams into extra-time. Sharp scored what proved to be the winner when netting on 105 minutes, allowing his teammates to breathe a sigh of relief.
Arsenal have won the FA Cup 13 times
Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record number 13 times in their history. The London club first lifted the old trophy in 1930 but it took them six years to double up. They were last seen winning the FA Cup in 2017 when beating Chelsea 2-1 at the national stadium thanks to goals from Sanchez and Ramsey, Costa netting a reply for the Blues in what was a stunning final. Arsenal fans, disappointed with how their club has performed in the league will be desperate to see them continue their love affair with this competition.
Arteta’s side have failed to live up to Premier League expectations and are in real danger of finishing this season in midtable. They returned from lockdown with two defeats in quick succession, losing 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City before going down to Brighton on the road. Arsenal took the lead against the Seagulls but conceded two late goals to lose the suffer what was a painful defeat against an opponent they were expected to beat quite comfortably.
We last saw Arsenal in the FA Cup when they were beating lower league opposition in Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Papastathopoulos scored the opening goal in stoppage-time at the end of the first-half before Nketiah added a second on 51 minutes to kill the tie off. With the stats showing Arsenal finished that match with 73% of the ball possession and 15 attempts at goal, it was a surprise to see they didn’t score a few more goals.
Sheff Utd vs Arsenal prediction
Sheffield United are higher in the Premier League than their opponents and have the better form so far this year. This is a cup game, however, where both sides can leave the pressures of chasing points at the door and enjoying the freedom that comes with playing cup football. Sheffield United enjoy home advantage and will fancy their chances of winning the match but it would be foolish to write Arsenal off, given their history in this tournament.
This competition rates as the Arsenal players only chance of getting anything of note out of what has been an otherwise difficult campaign. Sheffield United are juggling a cup run with a battle to reach Europe next season, so may see this as an added distraction. With the pressure off their shoulders, we could see Arsenal go out and enjoy playing football again. If Arteta names a full-strength team they could win this.
FA Cup odds
The pre-match betting attached to this match has Sheffield United at 19/10 to progress to the next round in 90 minutes. Arsenal are available at 6/4 to claim an away victory with the draw trading at 11/5.
Will both teams find the net? Yes has been marked up at 5/6 in the both teams to score market with no a 93/100 play. Arsenal to score the first goal of the game, regardless of the full-time result, is even money.