Saturday 3/17/18 (5:15 AM PT)
Swansea vs. Tottenham
Both of these teams have been very difficult to beat in 2018, but there’s still no question as to who the favorites are. The only game Spurs have lost this calendar year was last week’s heartbreaker against Juventus, and they quickly rebounded with a convincing 4-1 win over Bournemouth over the weekend (LINK TO PTS). Carlos Carvalhal’s Swans frustrated Tottenham in a 2-0 loss to Spurs in January that came in the midst of a strong stretch of play, and Swansea have since continued to improve to move into 14th in the league table. Of course, league performances don’t correspond to cup ones, and both of these teams know that a semifinal at Wembley awaits if they can get through the other at the Liberty Stadium.
Manchester United vs. Brighton
Following the disastrous midweek defeat to Sevilla (LINK TO MY STORY), United are desperate to get back to winning ways in a vital cup tie with Brighton. Jose Mourinho’s side will be eager to get over the Champions League exit, and seeing as the FA Cup represents the Red Devils’ only (realistic) chance at a trophy this season, they’ll bring everything they have. Being in front of their home fans at Old Trafford should help as well, although the visiting Seagulls will be under no pressure in a game everyone expects them to lose. Prior to last week’s loss to Everton, Brighton were unbeaten in seven games in all competitions; Chris Hughton’s side is difficult to play against, and with the ability to play freely in Manchester, they could give United plenty of problems.
Sunday 3/18/18 (6:30 AM PT)
Wigan Athletic vs. Southampton
After Wigan beat Manchester City at the DW Stadium in the Round of 16, there’s no way Southampton will be caught sleeping on League 1’s second-place side. The Latics have just three home losses in all competitions this season, and their home confines have been even friendlier in the cup, where Wigan have gone through all five rounds with home victories. Even with their fans’ backing and the win over City, it’s still tough to view them as anything more than a strong challenger to clear favorites Southampton. The talent of the top-tier side can’t be matched by the League 1 club, but Saints aren’t in particularly good form, and they certainly won’t cruise through on ability alone. If they don’t come close to matching the energy of the 2013 cup winners, they could be in a bit of trouble.
(9:30 AM PT)
Leicester vs. Chelsea
It’s been an up-and-down campaign to different degrees for both Leicester and Chelsea, and each should like its chances to advance this weekend. Leicester could have had an easier draw, but they catch the Blues at a good time, directly after a draining Champions League tie against Barcelona. And, with no replay in the quarterfinals, the tie will be
Saturday 3/17/18 (8 AM PT)
Stoke vs. Everton (3)
The time for Stoke to act and save their sinking ship is now. Winless in six, the Potters remain mired in the relegation zone, and Paul Lambert hasn’t been able to help them take concrete steps away from the bottom three. Worse yet, they’ve been pitiful at both ends of the pitch, with 56 goals conceded (second-most in the league) and just three scored in their last six. Everton have been terribly inconsistent, so it’s tough to predict much about what Sam Allardyce’s squad will deliver on any given day. It is worth noting that the Toffees have won just one away league game all season, and they’ve lost every road match they’ve played in 2018; if Stoke are going to turn their campaign around, they need to take advantage of the opportunity they have this weekend.
Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace (4)
Each of these sides is looking to move past a disappointment last weekend, and a win for either in this relegation six-pointer would go a long way towards the goal of survival. The Terriers played a man up for more than 80 minutes but couldn’t find a way past Swansea in a scoreless draw; Palace were a bit unfortunate to not get something at Stamford Bridge as they impressed despite losing 2-1 to Chelsea. Huddersfield currently sit four points above 18th-place Palace, so three more would put a sizeable gap between them and the drop zone, while an Eagles win would trim the buffer between the sides to a single point. At home against a Palace side that struggles away (and hasn’t won at all since January 13), Huddersfield will fancy themselves to take the points, but this will be a tense, tight affair with critical points to be had.
Bournemouth vs. West Brom (2)
The Cherries won’t have a better chance of stamping their spot in next season’s top flight than Saturday’s visit from West Brom. Hosting the dreadful Baggies, Bournemouth would get some much-needed separation with a win and could from there ride a couple of good results to the finish line. Meanwhile, West Brom are all but done, and they are losing steam by the week. The Baggies would need an epic run of form to get themselves anywhere near safety. Stranger things have happened, but not many.
Liverpool vs. Watford (4)
Watford have been interestingly inconsistent lately, with wins over Chelsea and a couple of poor sides and smackings from Arsenal and lowly West Ham. The Reds, meanwhile, were hoping this fixture would be postponed, but their early exit from the FA Cup means their domestic ambitions turn squarely towards finishing in the top four. They have a four-point lead on fifth-place Chelsea at the moment, and until last week’s loss to Manchester United, their league play had been stellar. A bounceback game seems on the cards for Jurgen Klopp and co.
Bonus European Games of the Week:
Saturday, 3/17/18 (9:00 AM PT)
Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray
Sunday, 3/18/18 (9:00 AM PT)
Istanbul Basaksehir vs.Besiktas
With nine games left in the Turkish season, the fate of the Super Lig could be decided this weekend … or the table could descend into complete madness. Galatasaray lead the way at the moment on 53 points, and they visit Fenerbahce, which will certainly have a raucous crowd at its back for the Intercontinental Derby. Fener sit fourth on 47 points, and between the two sides are Istanbul Basaksehir and Besiktas -- each sitting on 50 points -- who meet on Sunday. Two or more teams are going to drop points this weekend, and if leaders Gala can’t get three against their hated rivals, the table could very well tighten up for a grandstand finish. If they can pull out the win on the road, however, they could extend their edge atop the table and earn a statement victory in the process. Expect extra-curricular activities and a potential flurry of cards in this pair of matches, which should prove to be anything but boring.