This is an all Premier League game but between two teams who are experiencing different fortunes in the league.
Just a few days ago Birmingham had the fantastic experience of winning the Carling Cup at Wembley. It was great performance, a great result and a great day out for players, staff and fans. However, since that celebratory day the reality of Premier League survival has made itself all too plain. A 3-1 defeat at home to local rivals and fellow strugglers West Brom was followed by a hard earned point at Everton. Those results leave them outside the drop zone by courtesy of a one goal better goal difference.
Whilst these may be worrying times for Birmingham, their opponents, Bolton, are sitting seventh in the Premier League with an outside chance of qualifying for Europe.
Owen Coyle has seen his team go unbeaten in five games and the fans are watching Bolton play the type of flowing football that they can only have dreamed about under Sam Allardyce or Gary Megson.
Birmingham will fancy another day out at Wembley, but I have a hunch that this could be the year for unfashionable Bolton to have a celebration of their own.
Soccernews prediction: 0-1
Prior to the draw being made both of these teams will have felt that they were likely winners of the competition. Mind you, before the draw was made Manchester United were well clear in the Premier League and Arsenal were still competing in four competitions. Now, United look less than safe at the top and Arsenal are only left in two competitions.
Neither side enter the game with any sort of form. Manchester United have suffered back to back defeats for the first time in a very long while. It is not just that they lost at Chelsea and Liverpool, but the fact that after half-time in the Chelsea game, for one hundred and thirty-five minutes of football, they have looked devoid of ideas, energy or threat.
Arsenal lost the Carling Cup final, played out a pretty unimpressive draw with Sunderland and then managed to play a whole game in Barcelona without having an attempt on goal.
With both teams struggling and having no idea what sort of side either manager might select, it is an almost impossible game to predict. However, United have literally been unbeatable at home so far this season and Arsenal must be suffering from shattered confidence. For that reason, I think Arsenal may only be left in one competition after today.
Soccernews prediction: 2-1
This game sees the unpredictable talents of Manchester City come against the only non Premier League team left in the tournament.
City can be very good, like when they blew Aston Villa away 3-0 a couple of weeks ago. They can also be very bad, like they were in their 2-0 defeat in Europe in midweek.
Their opponents are a Reading side who have a good recent history of knocking Premier League sides out of cups. In the last round, Everton were their victims.
City are still third in the Premier League but there is a sizeable gap to Arsenal and Manchester United, and Chelsea and Tottenham are hot on their heels. This competition remains Mancini’s best hope of achieving success this season.
Reading are in eighth place in the championship and are on a run of seven games without defeat. They have also found the net eight times in their last two games.
I think City will go through but Reading will provide a serious threat.
Soccernews prediction: 2-1
Last week these two sides played each other in the league at West Ham. On that occasion the Hammers won 3-0. Don’t expect this game to be quite that one sided.
Both teams will see this game as a welcome distraction from their Premier League campaigns. West Ham are still in the bottom three despite putting a very decent run of form together. They look as though they have turned a corner and might well be able to get out of trouble. They will also fancy their chances of progressing here and know, that in Avram Grant, they have a manager with a great FA Cup record.
Stoke are in mid table in the league, but only three points separate them from West Ham. There win against League one side Brighton in the previous round was their only win in five games and they are starting to look nervously over their shoulders.
I think Mr Grant will make it to another semi-final.
Soccernews prediction: 0-2
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