The FA Cup is laden with stories this season and many of the quarter-finalists this year will find some form of salvation with a victorious run to Wembley.
The nature of this salvation differs with each of the tams but there is a continuity of sorts present.
The big guns in the draw – Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur – will all similarly think they have a great chance to win the trophy in May and all really do need success in the competition to salvage something from seasons that are faltering somewhat.
Spurs have been flying up until the past couple of weeks, where three losses in a row in the Premier League have allowed arch rivals Arsenal to move within one point of them.
This deficit is highlighted most keenly when considering the fact that there were ten points between them before the 5-2 mauling at the Emirates Stadium last month.
While it would be premature to say they are in free fall and could go behind the Gunners next week, a victory against Bolton Wanderers would go some way to repairing damaged morale and getting their quest fro third place back on track.
The Trotters are looking for inspiration from the cup this season, although they cannot be overly optimistic at a trip to White Hart Lane.
The Cup could provide an escape from the league nightmare they are currently in the midst of and this situation often allows for the players to thrive when playing in an environment where the pressure is off.
The pressure that Herry Redknapp’s side are feeling will have a lot to do with Chelsea and their proximity to the north Londoners in the race for Champions League qualification.
The Blues spirited comeback against Napoli in the week will have done wonders to their confidence after falling behind Arsenal into fifth place and they will now believe there is momentum for them to get back into the treasured top four.
Even if they manage to stage some kind of resurgence, not winning trophies at Chelsea is rarely an acceptable end to the season and they are unlikely to be lifting the Champions League trophy come May in Munich.
The atmosphere around the club has been toxic in the past few months and the ‘Old Guard’ will be desperate to salvage something from what could be a final season at the club for many of them.
Kenny Dalglish will be desperate for his Liverpool side to make a second trip to a Wembley final this year and this partly down to their form in the league forcing many Reds fans to see cup success as some kind of salvation.
The Anfield club have improved un Dalglish but not nearly as much as the majority of the Liverpool fans thought they would or should when their calls for him to return to the club were answered.
They are trailing the top four by seven points at the moment and an inability to score regularly has all but scuppered their chances of making it into the Champions League places.
You could even question whether they will be able to overhaul Newcastle United in sixth, with the Toon playing well and making themselves difficult to beat.
Liverpool’s triumph in the Carling Cup final brought predictions form many in and around the club that it would spur them on to finish the season with a flourish, but it is not happening.
If their league form continues in the same vein, then Dalglish may be asked some uncomfortable questions about the progress the team has made under him, what with the vast amounts of money that was spent on new signings.
A solitary League Cup trophy is unlikely to be enough for many fans if the team finish in sixth or seventh – as seems likely – but a cup double would give the fans something significant to cheer about as well as laying down good foundations for a successful campaign next season.
Those big three will be expected to win their respective ties at home and they will be as desperate as one another due to the varying sub-plots stated above, but it is the other tie that holds the most intrigue.
Everton and Sunderland are in two different places as clubs and they will both believe they have a great chance to do something special and unlikely this year after making it this far.
Sunderland were flirting with relegation earlier in the season when Steve Bruce was sacked, but they have since made an astonishing turnaround since Martin O’Neill took over at the club.
An FA Cup win would make the resurgence had under the Northern Irishman almost like fairy-tale, as it would go way beyond any of the expectations at the club.
However, Everton under David Moyes is where the most romantic underdog story lies; it is the ten-year anniversary of his stint at the club and the past week or so has seen many praising him for the job he has done.
The Toffees boss basically sacrificed the Merseyside derby on Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming tie at Goodison Park against the Black Cats.
Moyes has brought consistently high levels of performance from the club on a shoestring budget and this season has had the feel of a swansong about it.
They haven’t had as good a chance to get to Wembley in a few years and the Scot appears to be concentrating predominantly on the cup run – a trophy would be the perfect topping to a decade in charge of Everton.
The FA Cup has taken a few knocks over recent years but the storylines it produces will continue to be engaging and exciting – this year is no different.
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