Cottagers stand in way of United
Roy Hodgson has been around long enough to remember the last time Fulham reached an FA Cup final.
That was 34 years ago and Hodgson was just a year away from embarking on a managerial career that has seen him fill 16 coaching posts in Denmark, England, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Now 61, Hodgson has put all his experience to good use in lifting Fulham from the brink of relegation to within sight of European football in just over a year in charge.
And he is relishing the prospect of derailing Manchester United's charge for an unprecedented haul of five trophies by pulling off an upset in a quarter-final meeting that is arguably the pick of this weekend's ties. Fulham's run to the last eight has triggered thoughts of the club's last Wembley appearance, the 1975 final.
"This is my first time in the quarter-finals," Hodgson said. "It would be lovely if we could reach the semi-final and even better if Fulham could recreate the magic of 1975."
Hodgson was a spectator at Wembley that day as Alec Stock's side went down to a 2-0 defeat by West Ham. "Fulham were in the old Second Division at the time but had just brought back Alan Mullery and signed Bobby Moore, people who boosted the team," Hodgson recalled.
"I clearly remember before the game Stock was asked if he was worried about the game, as they were coming up against the famous West Ham team, which contained so many World Cup winners. "His response? 'Not at all, we're going to have a thunderingly good day out!' The FA Cup is part of the Fulham tradition."
While United pursue their 'quintuple' Chelsea will be looking to extend their winning start to life under Guus Hiddink to five matches. The Dutchman watched his new charges dispatch Watford in the last round but had not formally taken over the team. Three weeks later, his influence has been clearly stamped on a Chelsea side that looks better organised and significantly more motivated than it did under Luiz Felipe Scolari.
With Michael Essien set to feature for the first time since rupturing knee ligaments in September and Ricardo Carvalho also fit again, Hiddink is set to benefit from a strengthened squad and it is hard to imagine a Coventry side currently residing in the bottom half of the Championship delaying their progress to the last four.
Burnley will also fly the flag for English football's second tier although Owen Coyle's giantkilling side are only at the fifth round stage. They visit Arsenal on Sunday, looking for a memorable double following their elimination of Arsene Wenger's youngsters from the League Cup in December.
Burnley also accounted for Fulham and Chelsea in that competition and have already beaten Premier League outfit West Brom in the FA Cup. Arsenal though appear to be on the up having put together an unbeaten run of 16 matches in all competitions and will expect to progress to a quarter-final home tie against Hull.
The final clash of the weekend sees Middlesbrough - inspired against Liverpool last weekend but woeful against Tottenham on Wednesday - travel to Everton, for whom the Cup represents the last chance of silverware this season.