ASTON VILLA 1-1 Manchester United
A first half strike from Carlos Cuellar put Villa ahead against but succumbed to a timely equaliser when Luis Nani’s cross was driven in only to be deflected into past his own keeper from James Collins. Nani then proceeded to get himself sent off after an almost criminal two footed lunge at captain Stylian Petrov. With the man advantage, Villa failed to dominate and if anything, allowed United to take control. Even though a draw is something we would have all welcomed before kickoff, it still smarts a bit that we didn’t go on to win the game.
CRYSTAL PALACE 0-1 Swansea
Palace missed the chance to move clear of the Championship drop zone when they hosted playoff hopefuls, Swansea. A goal from Shefki Kuqi against his former club and his first since his January arrival was enough to separate the two sides to give boss Neil Warnock some food for thought after seeing his side win three successive games since going into administration. Palace fought to try and salvage something from the game with Sean Scannell coming the closest with an overhead kick from close range that went agonizingly over the cross bar.
I hate having to guess the line up in games like this because to be frank, I’m not sure even Martin knows what team he’s going to field until he hands in the team sheet to the match officials.
One thing that is for certain is that Brad Guzan will be set to reprise his cup role with all eyes focused on his performance with a certain date against a certain opposition in a certain cup final just around the corner. A shoe in for the final maybe before his performance against Blackburn over two legs left many asking questions of the young American’s quality coming off his line.
With Agbonlahor and Petrov doubts for the match and with Heskey and Warnock only just returning it almost confirms a less than full strength side will be set to take on palace.
Defence: Bouma, Collins, Cuellar, L. Young
Midfield: Downing, Delph, Sidwell, A. Young
Up Front: Delfounseo, Carew
I’ll freely admit that my knowledge of teams outside of top flight football leaves a lot to be desired so any attempt to name the Palace line up would involve a lot of guess work. As such, here’s their last line up against Swansea.
Defence: Clyne, Hill, Hills, Butterfield
Midfield: Ertl, Derry, Ambrose, Danns
Up Front: Carle, Lee
Suspensions & Unavailable Players
Hills (Cup Tied)
Fabian Delph: After a fantastic performance against Manchester United that left us all wondering just why he was subbed for the useless plank that is Sidwell, he’s set to start again and with more freedom in midfield should be able to shine and really take his chance to claim more playing time as the season draws to a close.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistant Referee: Trevor Massey & John Flynn
Fourth Official: Keith Hill
Honestly? I’d have rather have played the Wolves. With the Eagles going into administration it’s taken what was already a potential banana skin and turned it into a whole pile of banana skins.
Administration will have placed a whole new level of importance on this game for the keepers of the Palace club coffers. To progress thus far in the FA Cup has meant an additional, and much needed boost of £344,250.00 from the match being televised and the prize money from the fourth round win over Wolves. With a further £180,000 going to the winners of this round, and should the tie go to a replay, than an additional £123,750 for the TV rights makes this match a must, MUST win for Neil Warnock’s men.
Even though, and with no disrespect intended, Palace have zero chance of winning the competition, to reach the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since 1995 would be a massive boost to the club and will reflect in the team’s performance.
Neil Warnock’s side have shown some good form since being placed into administration with their 1-0 loss to high flying Swansea being the first loss following a three game winning streak.
I’m fully aware that I may be being overly pessimistic about this but as long as you’re all aware that this may not be the walk in the park that some of you think it is then that’s fine by me.
Should Villa go and their and put on a display that matches the talent at Martin O’Neill’s disposal then all the above becomes irrelevant as the gulf in class between the two opposition would be only too evident as the 32 league places separating them.
Prediction… Crystal Palace 1-3 Aston Villa