Why the FA Cup quarter-final draw can be a blockbuster

Arsenal v Everton, a potential Sheffield Derby, a repeat of last year's final, what's not to like?

It has lost its appeal in recent years with early draws and TV companies dictating kick-off times but the last eight of the competition could be special.

The hysteria over cup draws, broadcasting rights and Monday night matches this year has reached an all-time high but if the draw for the last eight is anything to go by then we, as an audience, are in for a treat, with four potentially superb quarter finals in the pipeline.

The prospect of a Merseyside derby was quite literally gunned down by Arsenal as they saw off Liverpool but any suggestion this draw would become similar to that of previous rounds, where the likes of Kidderminster Harriers had to settle for a trip to Sunderland over a real heavyweight, while an-all Premier League clash in Chelsea v Stoke City was hardly the fans' choice when it came to a televised match.

But while the majority of supporters and those within the game believe the competition needs a revamp to become the spectacle it once was, this draw should kickstart an otherwise dull tournament to date this season into life.

Arsenal v Everton has plenty riding on it for both sides, with the visitors last tasting victory in this competition in 1995 thanks to Paul Rideout's winner against Manchester United.

The Gunners' wait hasn't been as long, 2005 was their last triumph, but it also represents the club's last piece of silverware and manager Arsene Wenger will be eager to put that right.

He would have hoped to have avoided a fellow Premier League big gun but with Manchester City the only other team from the top half of the top flight left in the competition, there is a considerable chance of reaching the final should either prevail.

City, themselves, entertain Wigan Athletic in a re-run of last year's momentous final where Ben Watson's headed goal in stoppage time gave the Latics an inaugural cup win and consigned then manager Roberto Mancini and his side to a shock defeat.

Watson has continued his love affair with this competition by notching in consecutive rounds to seal two 2-1 wins against Premier League opposition so why not a hat-trick against a side his name has now become synonymous with?

There is also the beguiling possibility of an all-Sheffield quarter-final, with Wednesday still to discover their fate after their tie with Charlton Athletic was postponed.

United stuck to their end of the bargain, however, by beating Nottingham Forest and the prospect of a steel city derby is one that should have football traditionalists purring.

Likewise, there is a narrative to be held, at least potentially, in the other quarter final should Brighton overcome Hull City in a replay following their 1-1 stalemate. 

Gus Poyet was the Brighton manager until the debacle in last season's Championship play-offs semi final defeat to Crystal Palace and will be heading back to the South Coast for what is sure to be a relatively frosty reception with his resurgent Sunderland side and, even if all else fails, Hull represent a geographical derby if not an established one.

With one lower-tier side guaranteed a place in the semis, the holders and last year's finalists pairing off and the chance for others to truly stake their claim, it seems as if the FA Cup sixth round could be a blockbuster.

image: © flawka

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