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Michael Owen looks ahead to FA Cup ties

In the build up to this week’s FA Cup third round fixtures, I spoke to former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City striker Michael Owen about his thoughts on some of this weekend’s cup ties. We focused on the matches which will be aired live on BT Sport.

Blackburn Rovers v Manchester City – Saturday 4th January, 12pm, BT Sport 1

In recent years, City have had a pretty decent record against Rovers. Winning 6 of the last 9 matches, you need to go back to 2007 for when City last lost to Blackburn. So, will City be going into the game full of confidence or will they be fearful of Blackburn as we have seen so many upsets in the early stages of an FA Cup run?

“Well, I think that it really depends on the team that goes out on Saturday. They have got such a strong squad at the moment, and it will be interesting to see if Manuel Pellegrini puts this game high up in his priority list. However, I do feel that Blackburn are in a very sticky period at the moment and I’m not quite sure whether their form is the best going into a match like this. So I think overall that it’s a nice pitch to play on and I see a City victory.”

Man City have scored 85 goals so far this season in all competitions and we’re only at the start of January.  But we saw against Crystal Palace last week that City struggled to break Palace down as they played some second team players: Do you think that Pellegrini will put out his strongest side possible to avoid an upset?

“Well, I’m not sure on his strongest side as he is one of those managers that doesn’t rotate often. When you do have a squad which is the size of City’s where you’ve got so many world class players, you’ve got to give some players a bit of playing time. I think the FA Cup is an ideal opportunity for the likes of James Milner who hasn’t been starting recently, players like that who have been on the fringe of things for City this season. So I still think they’ll be a very strong side against Blackburn; even though they only scored 1 goal against Palace last weekend. City score goals for fun and Blackburn aren’t the same side of what they a couple of years ago.”

So, overall, how do you see the game going yourself? Shock or no shock?

“No shock. I think it will be Blackburn Rovers 1-3 Manchester City.”

Derby County v Chelsea – Sunday 5th January, 1.30pm, BT Sport 1

Derby are going strong in the Championship (fourth in the table …two points off an automatic promotion place) Should Mourinho be wary of this when they go to Pride Park on Sunday? Despite Derby having an atrocious record against the Blues?  Derby last defeated Chelsea in 1999.

“This is one of those games where you see Derby get pulled out the hat and their at home you think, “Home tie against an inform Championship side? I want to avoid them.” Steve McClaren has done a fabulous job since taking over; he has really turned things around there. And even though they are facing Chelsea, Derby has got a great chance of winning. It will be interesting to see which team Mourinho does put out for this tie, but regardless to what side he does put out, Derby will definitely make a game of it and it should be a cracking game to watch. There is more chance of an upset happening in this cup tie than the Blackburn vs Man City game.”

Now Michael, you’ve worked with Steve McClaren when he was England manager; how would he go into a game like this? He’s won 10 of his first 14 games since taking over from Nigel Clough in the autumn which has propelled Derby up the table, so Derby fans may be going into the game with optimism that they could win. However, Chelsea have won the FA Cup 4 times in the last 7 season. How would he prepare his players for a massive game like this?

“Well, he doesn’t need to ramp up the enthusiasm anymore when facing a side like Chelsea. I think the Derby players will be full of confidence and self belief, as they’ll be really looking forward to the game. What McClaren has done since taking over is quite remarkable; he is certainly one of the best coaches I’ve worked under as I was very fortunate to work him in the England squad. He’s also had a couple of poor spells (most notably at Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest), but he’s also had some fantastic spells as a manager; when he got Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final back in 2006, what he is doing now at Derby, when he was assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United and of course when he won the title in Holland. He’s got a fantastic pedigree despite not having the longest managerial careers. So, I think his side will give Chelsea a good fight on Sunday.”

How crucial is it for Mourinho to ensure that his men do not get complacent? Although Chelsea may be the strong favourites going into this game, we have seen for instance Liverpool losing to Oldham 3-2 last year; is complacency a key factor for a giant killing?

“Well, when you see the position that Derby are in and when you’re playing away from home, you can’t get complacent. I think Mourinho will tell his players that as soon as they arrive at the ground that complacency isn’t an option. I don’t think Chelsea will get complacent on Sunday but if they do, it will be very foolish of Chelsea as Derby are a good side with very good players.”

When Derby last played Chelsea, they lost 6-1. This was when they were last in the Premier League when they accumulated just 11 points. However, do statistics matter in a cup match?

“No, not at all. We’ve seen recently that Tottenham hadn’t beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford since 1989, and now Tottenham have beaten United at Old Trafford for the last two seasons. Derby has got a completely different team from 2008 and they’re in a better position. Yes, they’re not in the Premier League but their sky high in the Championship and they would prefer that than being bottom of the Premier League with the lowest amount of points. And the fact they’re nearly top in the Championship will boost their confidence levels for when they do play Chelsea.”

So, overall, how do you see the game going yourself? Shock or no shock?

“Derby will scare Chelsea, but I think the Blues will just edge it. Derby County 1-2 Chelsea.”

Manchester Utd v Swansea City – Sunday 5th January, 4.15pm, BT Sport 1

Now to one of your former clubs Michael. Do you think that Moyes will be looking at the FA Cup along with the League Cup as the best chances for him to win some silverware this season?

“Yes, 100%. He desperately wants to win something; he doesn’t want his first season at Man United to end trophyless after taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson. He’ll be looking at both cup completions as his best bet to win a trophy this season due to their disappointing league run.  I don’t think Moyes will rest too many players against Swansea as he really needs the victory. I feel a backlash here for Swansea because despite losing to Spurs on Wednesday, United had won six on the bounce and had shown great team spirit. So I think it will be a bad time to play United as they really want to go out and win.”

After the defeat to Spurs on Wednesday and with some big names being injured such as RVP and Phil Jones, don’t you think it will be risky if he were to start with his strongest side against Swansea and risk MORE injuries. Or do you think he’ll give fringe players such as Wilfred Zaha, Anderson, Alex Buttner, and the Da Silva twins starts as they need to prove a point at United?

“Well if United were doing well in the league, he would have made a number of changes to give some of the fringe player’s game time. However, in the situation that they are in, Moyes can’t afford to lose another match especially in the cup, so he’ll more than likely start with his strongest team, bar to a couple of changes.”

How important is to for United to avoid a slip on Sunday? Because if they were to get a draw against Swansea, it will cause a fixture pile up due to their league cup commitments which will lead to fatigue. And David Moyes needs all the luck he can possible get at the moment.

“I suppose so, but then again everyone who is connected with United would rather get a draw than a defeat. Manchester United are well equipped to fixture pile ups as we’ve seen in the past. They’ve got a very big squad so they can always rotate and these players are paid to play in the Premier League, Champions League, FA and League Cup so a fixture pile up won’t really be a problem for United. You can also say the same about Swansea: They’ll most probably play the same amount of games as United this season due to their Europa League commitments, but then their squad is nothing compared to United’s as they lack depth and quality. So a fixture pile up could be an issue, but United will be able to deal with it.”

So, overall, how do you see the game going yourself? Shock or no shock?

“No shock for me. Manchester United 3-0 Swansea City.”

Now Michael, you won the FA Cup as a player in 2001 with Liverpool, I remember it very well because I’m an Arsenal fan! Did you feel there is a difference when you play in a cup match to when you play in a league match? Or did they just feel the same?

“Well I think there is a little difference, because at the back of your mind you know it is a one off. You also have that thought where one little mistake and you’re out but if you lose in a league game, you’ve got 37 matches to rectify that mistake. There is also that feeling amongst the players when on the pitch, as you’re more careful with your passes and long balls as one mistake could knock you out. It’s a very unique cup which all players enjoy playing in.”

BT Sport will be showing up to 25 live games including the final from this season’s FA Cup with Budweiser. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit

Article title: Michael Owen looks ahead to FA Cup ties

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