FA Cup, Premier League and more: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Millwall and Lincoln are in the mood for further upsets, José Mourinho has a tactical teaser at Chelsea and Rangers at risk of Old Firm derby embarrassment

1) Millwall the happiest of underdogs under hero Harris

The FA Cup quarter-final at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday is a fitting way for Neil Harris to celebrate two years in charge of the club he loves. Regardless of the result, the club have been upwardly mobile under Harris, the club’s all-time record goalscorer. Harris initially took caretaker charge on 10 March 2015 before assuming the full-time position a month later. Their start to this season was tricky – at the end of September they had 12 points from 10 games – but now Harris’s side are only six points off the automatic promotion places and travel to White Hart Lane on a 17-match unbeaten run. “It was about having a Millwall team,” the 39-year-old said this week of a club he felt had lost their identity. “That is not necessarily the best players – but ones who the fans could identify with. That is not football – it is effort, desire, running.” While the priority for the Lions is to find a passage back to the Championship, there is no reason Harris’s modern-day Millwall – who have already gobbled up and spat out Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester City in this competition – cannot upset another top-flight side. BF

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2) Mourinho faces tactical teaser at the Bridge

Given that Manchester United were hammered 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in the league earlier this season, José Mourinho could have done without the one striker who gives his team shape, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, being banned for a return there in the FA Cup. He doesn’t have a like-for-like replacement; the two most obvious alternatives are to go with Marcus Rashford’s pace and youthful exuberance or Wayne Rooney’s experience and industry. Neither can play the hold-up role that might have been so useful against a team that can overwhelm when in possession. It may be that Mourinho is tempted to match Chelsea’s 3-4-3 – Antonio Valencia would be more than capable as a right wing-back and Luke Shaw has the attacking attributes, if not perhaps the stamina, to play that position on the left. The danger in doing this is that since the defensive horror show at Chelsea in October, United’s back four have become a supremely stingy unit and have not conceded more than one goal in any league game. Mourinho, so often a master of defensive solidity, will want to showcase his prowess in this department on a return to the scene of his humiliation in the league last year. Chelsea, pursuing the double, may be in for a frustrating Monday evening. GB

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Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United at Blackburn in the fifth round. Will José Mourinho opt for his pace up front at Chelsea? Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

3) In-form Lincoln loom for Arsenal

Perhaps Arsenal, vulnerable as they are at present, should just be grateful that Lee Angol, a Tottenham academy graduate, is ineligible for Lincoln City’s trip to the Emirates. At the same time as Arsenal were being carved open by Bayern Munich, Angol, on loan from Peterborough United, scored a hat-trick as Lincoln limbered up for the biggest game in their history by breezing past Braintree Town 4-0. Angol, described by the Lincoln manager, Danny Cowley, as “like an iPhone 7 because he can do a bit of everything”, may be cup-tied for the Imps’ FA Cup quarter-final in north London – having played for his parent club earlier in the competition – but the National League leaders at least arrive both bang in form and full of confidence. “We wanted to earn the right to look forward to playing Arsenal and now we can do that,” Cowley said after Tuesday’s win. “We aren’t going there for a day out — if you want a day out you go to a zoo or a theme park.” BF

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4) Could Bamford hold key for Boro against City?

In a strange way, the visit of Manchester City in the FA Cup is just the respite Middlesbrough could do with. Leaking goals frequently in the Premier League and failing to pinch points off those around them at the bottom, Boro will at least find City providing a different test. The other issue has been putting the ball in the net, with Boro blunt in attack, having failed to score in their past four league games. On home turf, Aitor Karanka’s side ought to be able to let loose a little. They put up a fight to earn a point away at City in November and the last time they met in this competition two years ago, Boro won 2-0. Patrick Bamford scored the opener that day. The striker re-signed for £6m in January but his only start since came in the fourth-round win against Accrington Stanley. Karanka said it was one of the “four chances” the striker has been given to impress. If he is given a fifth this weekend, perhaps alongside Rudy Gestede or Álvaro Negredo, you get the feeling he might just take it this time around. BF

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5) Liverpool to stop being predictable

You can get odds of up to 14-1 against Burnley beating Liverpool at Anfield, which at first glance seems faintly ridiculous given how Jürgen Klopp’s side were beaten at Turf Moor in August and have been so incredibly poor against lower-ranking opposition this year. Liverpool have become renowned for beating the top sides and falling flat in games they are fully expected to win. There are a couple of big factors Liverpool have going in their favour against this weekend’s visitors, however. Burnley have been so good at home this season that they are not fighting for their lives like Liverpool’s recent conquerors, Swansea City, Hull City and Leicester City. And, perhaps more tellingly, Sean Dyche’s side haven’t won a Premier League away game all season. Allied to this, Sadio Mané and Philippe Coutinho – so missed during their respective absences – both appear to be returning to the form that made Klopp’s side so hard to contain in the first half of the season. Mané’s often underrated creative play was pivotal in the impressive 3-1 defeat of Arsenal and his electric pace means he is always a threat. If both players continue on their upward trajectory, it could be that Liverpool do what they have not done in the league in 2017 – beat a team outside the top six. GB

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Sadio Mané
Sadio Mané’s return to form offers Liverpool fresh hope. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

6) West Brom’s faint European hopes to fade away?

Tony Pulis’s side missed a chance to gain ground on Everton last weekend when they surprisingly lost 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace, meaning they remain four points behind Ronald Koeman’s side, who sit seventh – a position that is likely to grant access to the Europa League. To remain in contention West Brom will need at least a draw at Goodison Park or, more likely, a victory. Everton have won all four of their home games this year and scored 15 goals in doing so. West Brom have won only three on the road in the league and none of those against a team in the top half of the table. They won this fixture 1-0 last season but Everton have one of the league’s most energetic midfields now, and with Romelu Lukaku in hot pursuit of the Premier League’s Golden Boot, much-improved West Brom’s 35-year wait for European football is likely to become a 36-year one. GB

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7) Bournemouth need to win ugly battle with Hammers

No man played a bigger part in ensuring Bournemouth a point at Old Trafford last weekend than Artur Boruc. But it was the goalkeeper’s post-match message that will determine their Premier League status come May, starting against West Ham United on Saturday. “That’s what we should do every week, whether we have 10 or 11 on the pitch, that’s how we should defend,” Boruc said. Despite picking up an unlikely draw, Eddie Howe’s side are only five points clear of the bottom three. Bournemouth have struggled time and again with the aerial threat posed by opposition sides this season. Michail Antonio, who headed a winner at the London Stadium in the reverse fixture in August, will return from a one-match ban, while Andy Carroll is again set to lead the line. Both will relish the prospect of facing a depleted Bournemouth back line, which could see Baily Cargill given his full Premier League debut. Watford and Crystal Palace tapped into their more ugly sides to stifle Bournemouth earlier this year, so as against Manchester United, the Cherries will need to dig deep again. BF

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8) Llorente to give Maguire toughest of tests

When these two sides met in January both Paul Clement, at Swansea, and Marco Silva, at Hull, were making their managerial bows in front of a sparse KCom Stadium crowd in the FA Cup. Hull won 2-0 and showed the kind of desire that led to home victories against Bournemouth and Liverpool. Swansea did not show much although they did improve when Fernando Llorente was introduced as a substitute. He has been improving ever since, scoring five in his past six appearances and proving lethal in the penalty area. A master of dealing with aerial balls, Clement has encouraged Swansea to play with variety and go more direct to Llorente when necessary. This means they are getting picked off at the back and in midfield less often than they were. While Silva’s Hull have also markedly improved since his arrival, they lack a potent attacking threat and have seen relegation rivals Swansea pull six points clear of them. To have any chance of victory at the KCom on Saturday they will need the impressive centre-back Harry Maguire to prove why he is attracting admiring glances from some of the Premier League’s top six by keeping the in-form Spaniard at bay. GB

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Fernando Llorente
Fernando Llorente proves his worth to Swansea with the late winner against Burnley. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

9) A potential humiliation for Rangers?

Unbeaten since late November and on a 17-match winning streak in all competitions, Celtic currently lead the Scottish Premiership by 27 points and have scored 23 league goals more than their nearest challengers, Aberdeen. With 12 goals in his past six appearances, the striker Moussa Dembélé is in preposterously prolific form and continues to fire the bullets provided by Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Patrick Roberts. Comparatively impoverished in terms of wealth and talent, Rangers have already lost three times against their rivals this season and looked to be going into Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in a state of turmoil. At least Pedro Caixinha now looks like being installed as manager next week. With Celtic’s coronation as champions a formality, Rangers will at least hope to do their bit to delay the inevitable. With Brendan Rodgers’s team in such invincible form, it seems unlikely. A potential humiliation looks on the cards for rudderless, potless Rangers. BG

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10) Dark horses Huddersfield intent on spoiling party

The race for automatic promotion may have felt like a formality for weeks but it is far from a foregone conclusion. Huddersfield Town go to Brentford still on the tails of second-place Brighton and Hove Albion, and have a game in hand on Chris Hughton’s side. Unfortunately for both Newcastle United and Brighton, the Terriers have no plans to let up yet. Instead, they are fine-tuning things for the final 10 games of a season in which safety would probably have been regarded as mission accomplished. But David Wagner’s side have occupied a spot in the top six virtually all season – barring a poor November. Even more daunting is that Wagner has warned that his team have plenty more in the tank. “There is a lot more to come from them and I want them to become better still,” Wagner said after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa. “They are greedy and hungry to learn and that is what I like.” That seemingly innate desire might just yet see the Terriers leave the biggest surprise until last. BF

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