FA Cup 2012, Quarterfinal Preview And Fixtures: Underperforming Sides In Search Of Silverware

A detailed view of the FA Cup sponsored by Eon at the Leyton Orient FA Cup Media Day at Matchroom Stadium in London England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

This season’s FA Cup has been full of surprises, and all the teams in the final eight will think they have a chance at silverware with only an underperforming Tottenham Hotspur representing the Premier League’s top four at this late stage in the competition.

Eight teams are just one game away from a day out at Wembley, and only two games away from lifting the world's most famous trophy. With big names such as Arsenal, plus Manchesters United & City all falling by the wayside earlier in the tournament, the remaining hopefuls will fancy their chances of going all the way.

Everton vs. Sunderland

Saturday 3/17; 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

On paper you'd think this game could go either way, as both Everton and Sunderland sit near each other in the Premier League, and in their only league meeting to date this season, neither side could get one over on the other, as the game ended 1-1 at the Stadium Of Light in December.

Both sides have been starved of silverware in recent years, with Sunderland not winning the world's most famous trophy since 1973, and Everton not since 1995, both will feel this is an excellent opportunity to give their fans something to cheer.

Both David Moyes and Martin O'Neill have their sides in good form, and although Sunderland have a shocking record at Goodison Park, they seem a much different side under the Northern Irishman.

Everton took a big gamble resting key players such as Tim Cahill and Royston Drenthe in their recent drubbing in the Merseyside derby, which means Moyes has now attached much more importance to the game. Sunderland are still without Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon through suspension, while Kieran Richardson and Nicklas Bendtner are doubts.

There's very little to separate the sides, and this would looks like it could be headed for a replay to me.

Pick: Everton 1-1 Sunderland

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bolton Wanderers

Saturday 3/17; 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Despite the home side's incredible downturn in recent weeks, resulting in three straight Premier League losses, it's hard to see them losing this weekend against lowly Bolton Wanderers at White Hart Lane.

Bolton did get a victory over fellow relegation strugglers Queens Park Rangers recently, but the run of four straight defeats prior to that are more indicative of the White's form this season.

Harry Redknapp may choose to rest some players as the side look to hold on to a top four position in the Premier League in weeks to come, but even if the England-manager-in-waiting does so, I can't see anything beyond a repeat of when these two sides met in December.

Pick: Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Bolton Wanderers

Chelsea vs. Leicester City

Sunday 3/18; 14:05 GMT/9:05 AM ET

Roberto Di Matteo has enjoyed a decent start since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas last month, he'll be looking to a good cup pedigree as a player by winning the trophy as a manager.

The Italian made significant changes to the team for their 5th Round Replay at Birmingham City, and we can expect Di Matteo to do the same here as they take on Championship opposition again.

Fernando Torres should get a (nowadays) rare start in attack, as should young left-back Ryan Bertrand and big-haired Brazilian defender, David Luiz.

Leicester City come into this game in patchy form. Winning streaks don't seem to last long for the midlands outfit, hand having suffered two defeats in a row, they'll be looking to bounce back in style. They boast some talented players for a Championship team such as Jermaine Beckford, Sol Bamba and Kasper Schmeichel, all of whom might fancy themselves to be playing at a higher level.

On this day I think an out-of-sorts Chelsea still have enough to take a comfortable victory.

Pick: Chelsea 2-0 Leicester City

Liverpool vs. Stoke City

Sunday 3/18; 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Liverpool are in terrible form at the moment, luckily for them though, so are Stoke City. It's sad that Anfield is no longer the fortress it once was, and with that in mind, The Potters will fancy their chances of coming away with a win.

The Reds have already tasted cup success this season with a penalty shoot-out win over Championship side Cardiff City in February, whilst Stoke City's recent cup pedigree saw them get to the final last season, losing to 1-0 to Manchester City.

If Liverpool are to have any chance they need to have Steven Gerrard to be in the mood he was on Tuesday when he hit a hat-trick against Everton. Those games don't seem to come as often as they used to for the England midfielder, and with two important games in a week, I can't see him saving his side twice in a row. Which he'd have to, as nobody else seems to be playing even close to their potential for the Reds.

Stoke will be their usual selves; strong, robust, difficult to break down and relying heavily on the wing play ofMatthew Etherington and Ryan Shotton (Jermaine Pennant has been strangely absent the last few weeks).

With two teams playing well below their best at the moment, this could go either way, however I'm backing Stoke City to progress to the semi-finals in a narrow victory.

Pick: Liverpool 0-1 Stoke City

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