As the warm-up act before the final fifth-round FA Cup tie between Preston and Manchester United took place at Deepdale last night, England manager Roy Hodgson performed a diligent cameo to assist Tom Finney's son, Brian with the draw for the quarter-finals. That left seven teams in the next round for sure and an additional 'either/or' possibility in one of the ties drawn, which was confirmed when United defeated the home side 3-1. As a result, they seem to have been handed the toughest draw of the last-eight, facing #Arsenal at Old Trafford.
An all Midlands contest was provided with the pairing of Aston Villa against Tony Pulis' re-energised West Brom side, which looks like a tough one to call after the recent introduction of Tim Sherwood into the hot seat at Villa Park. His fresh vitality may provide the spark the home side require to get the likes of Christian Benteke firing on all cylinders again. With Brown Ideye and Saido Berahino forming a deadly partnership up front for the Baggies though, Villa may have to ride their luck if they are to progress further in the competition.
The chance for an emotional ending to Steven Gerrard's final season at Anfield, with the final taking place on his 35th birthday, was moved a step closer in the knowledge that the Reds will face Blackburn Rovers of the Championship in the quarter-finals at home. They will be wary of the former Premier League champions (something that the Merseyside club have failed as of yet to match), who have ably demonstrated by knocking two Premier League clubs out of the campaign already, that they are no pushovers. Both Swansea and Stoke City can bear testament to that fact.
Bradford City's dream of reaching Wembley again for the second time in a little over two years, after putting out Chelsea and Sunderland to make their first quarter-final in the FA Cup since 1976, seems to have every chance against Championship side Reading at home. Valley Parade should prove a daunting venue for the Royals, as the home side look to match their 2013 League Cup final appearance. With Jon Stead turning back the years up front for them, they seem to perhaps be slight favourites, despite once again facing higher league opponents. They will also have to be on their guard, should the dangerous Yakubu feature for the Reading side.
Louis van Gaal seemed pleased to draw old foes Arsenal at home, perhaps because he has felt that everything was against his side in previous rounds, as they drew supposed weaker opposition. Having come through those potential banana skins, he will be confident of beating the Gunners on home soil. The Cup holders will be keen to retain their silverware for another season, with the Premier League itself seemingly out of reach once more this term, and Arsene Wenger's side may be quietly confident of undermining the apparent weaknesses in the United back line. The tie will bring back memories for the fans of both sides of cup matches from the past, especially one feels the 2005 FA Cup final which the Gunners won 5-4 on penalties.
The draw was confirmed as:
Aston Villa v West Brom
Bradford City v Reading
Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers
Manchester United v Arsenal
The quarter-final matches will be played over the weekend of 7-8 March. #Football