The first FA Cup quarter-final of the weekend takes place on Saturday. George Pitts previews as Norwich host Man United at Carrow Road.
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Norwich v Manchester United
- 1730 BST kick-off on BBC One
- Match Odds: Home 5/1 | Draw 3/1 | Away 8/15
You often see struggling Premier League teams reach the latter stages of the FA Cup. With pressure relieved for the time being, they can play with freedom and temporary confidence. They often look like totally different teams. A couple of recent ones that spring to mind: 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan, 2015 finalists Aston Villa and 18/19 semi-finalists Brighton.
There's your argument for a fighting chance for Norwich. We could see an improved performance from Daniel Farke's men...but then again it is a very different world at the minute.
They will, of course, not have the usual benefit of the Carrow Road crowd behind them. Then the fact it's their third game in nine days. And the five subs rule, which then plays into big clubs' hands with the more strength in depth squads.
Was this game the reason behind Farke's bizarre decision to drop their three best players - Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia - to the bench for a vital home clash with Everton on Wednesday? Maybe so.
It is hard to stop a sliding club and while this could be some light relief, they face a United side on the up.
The Red Devils are also likely to be much changed, but with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side doing well in the league and confidence high, competition for places will be rife. Suddenly you have Fred, Scott McTominay, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard trying to impress. Plus, it is also a great chance to finish the campaign with domestic silverware.
There was plenty of promise with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes from the midweek win over Sheffield United, while Anthony Martial got his first hat-trick for the club, but it presents the opportunity for rotation with Odion Ighalo also expected to come in from the start.
That also presents some more attractive prices. The most eye-catching for us being on Spanish playmaker Mata.
The 32-year-old came on for the last 10 minutes at Old Trafford on Wednesday, his only minutes since the restart and he will surely get the nod from Solskjaer here as he does in cup competitions, likely in the number 10 role behind Ighalo.
While match sharpness could still be lacking a little, United's impetus and superiority could present Mata with chances in and around the box and he is not a player afraid of trying his luck.
He has had 10 shots in the Premier League in total this term despite more than half of his 18 appearances coming from the bench, and a further 11 efforts in eight Europa League starts.
The European competition has seen him get a look in and he has contributed two goals and three assists, averaging more than one shot per game (1.4).
He started in the FA Cup win at Derby in March, with an impressive five attempts (two on target) and, in two games against Wolves in the fourth round, he had four shots and scored the winning goal in the replay.
The Spaniard could be hungry to make an impact when given the chance here and he is at a shade over 4/1 to score anytime which, considering his expected role, is tempting. In addition to that, the shots on target market sees him priced at a huge 8/1 to have two efforts on target.
In a game where the visitors are likely to dominate in both chances and possession, that is surely worth a small play too. He is 7/2 to have 3+ shots (without them having to be on target), but the first two options are the preference here.
The FA Cup can usually be tough to call, but the current situation plays well in the favour of the bigger clubs and their rotation policy could well give Mata the chance to pull the strings in the final third and shine on Saturday evening.
Prediction: Norwich 1-3 Man United (Sky Bet odds: 12/1)
- Norwich and Man Utd last met in the FA Cup in the fourth round in 1993-94, with the Red Devils winning 2-0 at Carrow Road, going on to win the trophy that season.
- Manchester United have won 10 of their last 12 away games at Norwich in all competitions (L2), winning each of their last three including a 3-1 victory earlier this season in the Premier League.
- Norwich City are participating in their first FA Cup quarter-final since the 1991-92 campaign, when they eliminated Southampton after a replay to reach the semi-final.
- Manchester United are participating in the FA Cup quarter-final for a sixth consecutive season, although they’ve only progressed to the semi-final in two of the previous five seasons, going out at this stage last season via a 2-1 away defeat at Wolves.
- Norwich are winless in their last seven home FA Cup matches (D3 L4) since a 4-1 win against Burnley back in January 2012.
- Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in all four FA Cup matches this season, last keeping five in a row in the competition between April 2004 and March 2005 (seven consecutively).
- Norwich manager Daniel Farke hasn’t managed in a cup quarter-final since February 2013, when he took charge of SV Lippstadt in the German Westphalia Cup; they won 3-1 against TuS Dornberg.
- Since his FA Cup debut in February 2016, Man Utd goalkeeper Sergio Romero has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the competition (12), conceding just four goals in 16 appearances and conceding a goal, on average, every 358 minutes.
Odds correct as of 1630 BST on 25/06/20
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