The FA Cup and League Cup suck up weekends well after half (or more) of the Premier League teams have been eliminated from the competition for reasons that can't quite be explained. Because of that, some of the teams with the most to play for in the league have games in hand, and they're playing some of them in the middle of this week. Arsenal and Everton have tricky, but winnable matches, while Manchester City should coast to three points.
Arsenal haven't stopped the bleeding yet
Arsenal snuck by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup and are favorites to win in the final, which would see them end their nine-year trophy drought. But while their penalty shootout victory was certainly a boost, they still got taken to penalties by a Championship side at a neutral site where they had more fans. Wigan started to struggle when they substituted out a player who is only there because he's not good enough to play for Chelsea. Their performance at Wembley wasn't a good one.
Saturday's FA Cup match was the fifth in a row that Arsenal failed to win in 90 minutes. They progressed in the competition, but they struggled in a draw against a lower division team. Now, they need to beat a West Ham team that just gave Liverpool a very hard time after winning two games in a row. They should still be considered a team in decline heading into this game, but a win could see them bounce back up into fourth.
Pulisball could bring Everton down a peg
Everton have been excellent at home and Crystal Palace now have very little to play for, having virtually secured safety from relegation, but they've won their last three in a row. They've kept a clean sheet in all of those matches too, and have squeaked out some very solid (if boring) road draws since Tony Pulis took over. And a managerless version of Palace got a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park when these teams last met.
Three points aren't a given for Everton. They're in great position at the moment, but by Wednesday, they could end up trailing Arsenal. It won't take a terrible performance for the Toffees to fail to score against Palace, and it might not necessarily take anything great for Arsenal to snag a win against West Ham.
City should keep the pressure on ... while Sunderland should get buried for good
We might find out how important Yaya Toure is to Manchester City if he's not back when they face Palace in a couple of weeks, but his absence shouldn't hurt them much at home against Sunderland, who have been awful since their 3-0 win over Newcastle on Feb. 1. They haven't won in the league since, and that's very unlikely to change at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Remember that City's two games in hand on their title rivals are mostly simple. They have tricky trips away to Everton and Crystal Palace, but their other four fixtures are simple home games. They should win all four of them, and they should probably beat Palace even without Toure. And by the time that Everton game rolls around, Toure should return. City are going to be in contention until the very end.
Sunderland, meanwhile, are headed to the Championship unless they can pull off a miracle. They play Chelsea away on the weekend and have a trip to Old Trafford left on the schedule as well. Even if they win all three of their home games and draw one of those tricky away games, they'll probably fail to get out of the drop zone. They probably need to win one of those three matches to feel like they have a good chance to stay up.
Fixtures (times ET)
Arsenal vs. West Ham - Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Crystal Palace - Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET
Manchester City vs. Sunderland - Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET