This game has been subject of a lot of debate in the last week concerning the old league versus cup question. As you can see from our poll on the right success in the league is seen as the priority but on the forum a number of people have said that they would take relegation if we could win the FA Cup. Interestingly there appears to be a generational split with younger fans favouring the league and older fans favouring the cup. There has been a lot of talk about the heartbreak of the 1975 semi-final but as I was a baby at the time I don’t share their pain. Maybe being in my mid-thirties explains why I really can’t decide what I would prefer. On one hand another Wembley visit would be brilliant and we have a good chance of achieving that but on the other I really don’t want us to go down this year. I’m concerned that our two best chances of league wins (At home to Sunderland and Fulham) clash with the semi and final so would have to be moved. If we are playing three games a week in May we are less likely to get the points. I’m convinced that if we can stay up this year then we could be in for a long stay in the Premier League…..but then the FA Cup is special. Maybe we can all just agree that we don’t want a draw.
Anyway onto the game and I think the debate about playing a weakened team has been made irrelevant as it is more of a case now of who is available. Half the team is either injured, doubtful or just plain exhausted. So the team will be made up of whoever can still walk although it’ll be far from the youth team that some have suggested. Jordan Mutch should keep his place as he did well on Wednesday and maybe Nathan Redmond will be in the squad but otherwise it should still be a pretty experienced eleven. One player who really should be rested is Roger Johnson but with Bolton’s aerial threat and Curtis Davies’ unconvincing display last week to consider I’m not sure he will be. FA Cup regulars such as Parnaby and Murphy should be included anyway and hopefully Alex Hleb can return.
Bolton are in a totally different situation to us in that they are safe in the league and unlikely to make a Europa cup spot so can turn all their attention to tomorrow’s game. They had a good if slightly fortunate win over Villa last week and seem to have got over the slump they suffered at the start of the year. They have pushed on under Owen Coyle and have a number of quality players who don’t get the attention they deserve. Gary Cahil has had a very good season and the front two of Davies and Elmander have provided the goals. Added to this the excellent loan signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea who has come in and scored plenty just as goals from the other two have dried up. Fortunately for us he is cup tied for tomorrow’s game.
Hopefully our Carling Cup win will have lifted the pressure on this match which will allow the team to play with freedom and make it a good game. I’m expecting a much bigger crowd than in the previous rounds as well although that wouldn’t be difficult. Maybe people will have learned from the Carling Cup final ticket allocation and be keen to get their hands on at least one stub. I expect whatever team McLeish puts out they will give their best and we should get behind them.
My Prediction 1-1 Bolton to win the replay.
Enjoy the game.