Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

The FA Cup had a good weekend, the semi-final draw looks enticing and is almost the exact opposite of last year’s competition when Portsmouth were the biggest team left in the competition at this stage. There were also good weekends for some strikers in Europe including Anriy Voronin and Pippo Inzaghi whilst St Mirren proved once again just how magical cup football can be.

Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

Good Weekend

Manchester United

The Red machine rumbles on. The fact that Sir Alex Ferguson could rest Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov and start with a forward line of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez says much about the quality of this squad. (One of the chinks of light in the United armour is that the diminutive Argentinean could well leave Old Trafford at the end of the season due to his wage demands.)

United were simply irresitible at Craven Cottage against an average Premier League team playing their most important game of the season. In retrospect it is incredible that anyone felt that Fulham away in the FA Cup would be the potential banana skin to halt the quest for the quintuple.

Now onto Inter Milan at home in the Champions League and Jose Mourinho’s side really could be the team to stop United. An early away goal will open up the tie and like before the first leg the fitness of some United defenders could be key. (Full match odds for United-Inter here.)

If United do progress in the Champions League it could only be the number of games that stops Sir Alex Ferguson claiming every trophy available.

FA Cup odds (from 888sport): Manchester United (6/5), Chelsea (9/4), Arsenal (7/2), Everton (7/1), Hull City (40/1)

Arsenal

Patrick Barclay put it well in The Times on Saturday when he argued that “we should bow before Arsene Wenger, not deride him. And as is so often the case, the question marks surrounding the future of the Frenchman are beginning to look absurd.

Arsenal played some scintilating football against Burnley and scored three terrific goals. Whilst Carlos Vela and Eduardo took the plaudits for brilliant finishes, Alexandre Song was superb throughout and his assist for Eboue was sublime.

Now just three points behind Aston Villa and the fourth Champions League spot, with Walcott and Eduardo back and Fabregas coming soon, Arsenal look in good shape, which will be further heightened should they negotiate a tricky trip to Rome. (Roma-Arsenal match odds here.)

Good Weekend, Bad WeekendGuus Hiddink

Five successive wins for the Dutchman and the decision to fire Luiz Felipe Scolari is now looking like a sensible one. Crucially Hiddink has returned the Didier Drogba of old, the lone striker who acts like a battering ram, scores goals and provides space for his team mates. Some may question why the Ivorian felt he didn’t need to display these qualities earlier on in the season but Chelsea fans won’t care if he spearheads a challenge for the Champions League and FA Cup.

Also of great importance is the return of Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho. Would Scolari have struggled had Essien not been out for so long?

Everton

David Moyes’ side are now the neutrals favourites to win the FA Cup. Could Everton be the side to stop Manchester United?

Robbie Keane

Two goals in four days for the Irishman and Keane is beginning to look like the player he was before he made his “dream” move to Anfield. Spurs are now five points off the drop zone and should stay up, although their next two games see them play Aston Villa and Chelsea. The next question mark surrounding Spurs’ season could surround how Keane and Jermain Defoe play together with the latter expected back in two weeks.

Sylvain Ebanks-Blake

Scored his 23 goal of the season at Hillsbrough on Saturday to give Wolves’ promotion bid a major boost as well as ensure he is likely to be the division’s top goal scorer for the second season running.

Rangers

Could the Co-operative Insurance Cup final next Sunday be the first leg of the treble for Walter Smith and his team?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Super Swede scored a terrific lob at Genoa to take his tally for the season to 16. Now, Ibrahimovic has to prove to English audiences that he is not the most overrated footballer on the planet.

Barcelona

The 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao combined with the Madrid derby draw ensured that Pep Guardiola’s side now lead the Primera Division by six points. A mini blip had seen Pep Guardiola’s side pick up one point from a possible nine and this was a much needed victory in the context of the season as well as before Lyon visit the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

Zico

It may be early doors in the Russian Premier League, but their win over Aston Vlla in the UEFA Cup and their Russian Super Cup win over Rubin Kazan suggests CSKA Moscow will be the team to beat in Russia this season.

Andriy Voronin

Liverpool’s on-loan striker claimed a hat-trick at Energie Cottbus as Hertha Berlin stormed four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

Pippo Inzaghi

He may have been, in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, “born offside,” but he knows where the goal is and goals win games. All three of his goals against Atalanta were a masterclass in positioning and finishing.

Bad Weekend

Chris Coleman

The former Fulham manager was quick to criticise Steve Bennett after the match, claiming he was “smug” and too friendly with the Chelsea players. Coleman, however, was culpable for not setting his team up in the right manner for this cup tie.

Jose Bosingwa, Chelsea’s attacking full back, was given the freedom of the Ricoh Arena in what was a major tactical error by Coleman. In addition, the Welshman could well have come out and criticised his central defenders for their part in Chelsea’s first goal.

Good Weekend, Bad WeekendMiddlesbrough

Perhaps the only consolation is that at least the defeat at Everton was not as embarassing as the quarter-final home defeat to Cardiff last season. After a string of good performances, Brad Jones illustrated why he was kept out of the team by Ross Turnbull for so long this season.

At least now Gareth Southgate can concentrate on the league. The next five games are massive – Portsmouth (h), Stoke (a), Bolton (a), Hull (h) and Fulham (h).

Chris Eagles

One of the most technically gifted players in the Championship had a ‘mare for Arsenal’s first goal.

Celtic

Gordon Strachan’s side suffered major embarassment against a team they had beaten 7-0 exactly a week earlier. As a result Celtic exited the Scottish Cup at the quarter-final stage for the second successive season.

Real Madrid

Following Tuesday’s match at Anfield, Real Madrid’s season could be all but over. With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar now coming into form, and with Real Madrid needing goals against Liverpool, the oversight that saw Madrid fail to bring both Diarra and the Dutchman into the Champions League could come back to haunt them.

Lyon

The perrenial French champions have now lost four league games this season following their 2-0 defeat at Lille. Football fans in France must be praying that someone will take advantage.