FA Cup fifth-round preview
The FA Cup returns this weekend and, in a year that has witnessed a resurgence in the famed romance of the cup, it is perhaps fitting that the fifth-round weekend coincides with Valentine's Day.
Soccernet sets the scene for each of the ties taking place on Sunday as three sides prepare for heartbreak and three look forward to a quarter-final date (recent form in brackets).
Bolton Wanderers (WWLDL) v Tottenham Hotspur (WDWDL) - 1330 GMT
Despite securing the services of Owen Coyle - a man who likes his sides to perform with style and intent - Bolton have scored only one goal in five games since defeating Sheffield United 2-0 in the fourth round. Allied to attacking concerns is a notable absence in defence with Gary Cahill ruled out due to a blood clot, although January signing Stuart Holden could make his debut after appearing for the reserves in midweek. Though Bolton are weakened by injury and sit in the relegation zone, Coyle is adamant he will not sacrifice the chance of cup progression for league pragmatism.
The year may not end in '1', but Spurs fans can scent Wembley glory this season with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all eliminated. Harry Redknapp's men beat Leeds in a fourth-round replay thanks to a hat-trick from Jermain Defoe. They will, however, have to respond to a desperately disappointing 1-0 defeat to Wolves in midweek, their second of the season, which dented their aspirations of a top-four finish in the Premier League. Peter Crouch could be restored to the starting line-up after Eidur Gudjohnsen started the defeat at Molineux.
Fulham (LLWDW) v Notts County (WWWWL) - 1500 GMT
As the only League Two side left in the competition, little is expected of Notts County but the Magpies shocked Wigan Athletic in the previous round when triumphing 2-0 at the DW Stadium. With a record of just one defeat in their previous 14 home games, though, and having beaten Burnley 3-0 in midweek, Fulham will be confident of avoiding a giant killing and reaching the quarter-finals for the second year in succession. Andy Johnson is sidelined with a knee injury so David Elm could be handed another chance after he scored his first goal for the club in the win over Burnley.
County know they face likely elimination at the hands of a seasoned Premier League outfit. Caretaker manager Dave Kevan saw a seven-match unbeaten run brought to a halt by defeat to Bournemouth on Tuesday and could well field a 4-5-1 formation, meaning former Ipswich and Birmingham midfielder Jamie Clapham could come into the side.
Crystal Palace (LWWWL) v Aston Villa (WDWDD) - 1545 GMT
Aston Villa may have prevented Wayne Rooney from scoring in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Wednesday night, but they could face another challenge entirely in the shape of Crystal Palace's auxiliary attacker extraordinaire, Danny Butterfield. The defender, previously with 11 career goals to his name, was pushed into an emergency forward role in the fourth round against Wolves and scored a six-minute hat-trick. A repeat would be welcome indeed for Palace who are currently mired in administration and need the cash injection provided by a quarter-final tie. Indeed, their presence in the competition was highlighted in an advert placed in the Financial Times in an effort to find a buyer this week.
Villa are naturally clear favourites and are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions. Martin O'Neill's top-four challengers also have a Carling Cup final against Manchester United to look forward to and held the reigning Premier League champions on Wednesday night, even if the game came at a cost to Stiliyan Petrov, who was taken off with an ankle injury following a nasty challenge from Nani. The Bulgarian is a doubt for the cup tie while O'Neill must also decide whether to stick with Fabian Delph after the young midfielder surprisingly replaced the injured Emile Heskey for the United game.