Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Nuclear Wessel: Your Premier League viewing guide

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Europe, Soccer Updated: March 7, 2014 - 3:26 PM

Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Cane Peterson and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. Dana is here every week to educate us on the Premier League. Dana?


I hope seven days has been enough time for everyone to recover from the face-rearranging awesomeness that was the THE RETURN OF THE NUCLEAR WESSEL HOT SPORTS TAKES ATOMIC EPL POWER RANKINGS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BUFFALO WINGS. Back to (somewhat) business as usual here on the soccer blog that everyone* is reading. There are a couple of FA Cup quarterfinals this weekend that we'll include in this preview, as well.

*my close friends, family and random people on Facebook who accidently click on it while trying to take the the BuzzFeed ‘Which Fraggle Rock Character Do You Look The Most Like?’ quiz.

I was going to write about the US Men's National Team, but I’d rather have all my ex-girlfriends tell embarrassing stories about me to a Super Bowl-sized audience than ever talk about the USMNT’s unwatchable 2-0 loss to Ukraine. A known associate of mine who I correspond with after every US match just sent one message afterwards. “I’ve got nothing.” And neither do I! Moving on!

The quarterfinals of the FA Cup are being held over the weekend, along with five Premier League matches. It’s that time of year where everybody is sitting on a different number of matches played. It makes the table a bit kittywampus. (Name me another soccer column that uses ‘kittywampus’ to describe the uneven number of matches played. I dare you. Seriously. Find one. I'll buy you a beer.)

Currently, Chelsea are on top with 63 points. Liverpool and Arsenal have identical records, with 'Pool ahead on goal differential. Bringing up fourth is Manchester City, with 57 points but two fewer matches played than the rest of the top four.

No. 3: Arsenal vs Everton at Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup quarterfinals
When: Saturday at 6:45AM on Fox Sports 1 and FoxSoccer2Go.com
Last year: This is the third time they have met in the FA Cup, with the most recent coming in a 1981 Everton victory. These two haven’t played each other yet this season in the Premier League, with both matches still to come in March and April. Correction: The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in early December.

This is a very intriguing matchup, especially seeing as these two haven’t played each other yet this season. For Arsenal, Jack Wilshere is out for six weeks because of a foot injury picked up in the international friendly on Wednesday. My distaste for Arsenal aside, you never want to see a player like that getting hurt at this point of the season, especially in a friendly. Arsenal’s title hopes have already blew out a couple engines but this might be the blow that sends the plane into the mountains.

When I was looking at this match I was trying to figure out who this match and continued run at the Cup means more to. On one hand, you have Arsenal looking to finally add a trophy to the Emirates trophy cabinet after nine long years. It may not be the league trophy, and it certainly isn’t the one with big ears, but after nine years, beggars can’t be choosers. If nothing else, winning this FA Cup would stop all the ‘XXXX number of days since Arsenal last won a trophy’ memes that get retweeted every seven minutes.

You know this means a lot to the players, fans, and especially Arsene Wenger, who has gotten his name tarred and feathered more often than he deserves. The expectations for Arsenal heading into this season were pretty low. I even predicted they wouldn’t finish top four (with Spurs only six points back, that isn’t out of the question). I think if you asked any Arsenal fan before the season started, they would have considered winning an FA Cup a success.

On the other hand, Everton would be overjoyed to get to Wembley for the semi-finals. Winners of the Cup in 1995 and runners up in 2009, it would be quite the thrill for the Toffees, who entered this season with Roberto Martinez as manager after David Moyes bailed to go hang out with the popular kids at Manchester United.

No. 2: Chelsea vs Tottenham at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 11:30AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Spurs were able to notch a late 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in the 80th minute last season, rallying to equalize on two separate occasions. Spurs have actually managed two draws in their last four matches at the Bridge.

Chelsea have the opportunity to go seven points clear at the top of the table with a win Saturday against London rival Spurs. That number is inflated since the rest of the top four are either off this weekend or playing in the FA Cup, but as they say, you’ll take points in the bank rather than games in the hand any day.

Spurs are still very much on the outside looking in at the top four, but banking a point or three at Stamford Bridge would be massive to get them back in the picture. Three points will be a tall task for Spurs; they have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1990, a span of 26 matches.

The problem for Spurs is that they score as often as Steve Carell in the first 125 minutes of 40-Year Old Virgin (running time 133 minutes; I guesstimate on the occasional soccer fact but I will never hang you out to dry on a movie fact). They have scored 37 league goals in 28 matches so far. To put that into perspective, Manchester City have scored 69 goals. 14th place Swansea has also scored 37 goals. The fact that Spurs are in fifth place with 37 goals scored and 33 conceded is a bit of an oddity.

Chelsea have conceded the fewest goals in the league and rarely let one in at home, and Jose Mourinho has his team playing well. The Blues haven’t lost in the league since December 7th, and the chance to add more points to their lead is more than enough motivation to get up for a London derby.

These are two teams that you aren’t likely to see grabbing wings together after a match. (And not just because I don’t know if they eat buffalo wings in England. Do they? Anyway, I just didn't want to use the "two teams that don’t like each other" cliche.)

The Chelsea fans hang out at Brit's Pub. The Spurs fans hang out at the Local just down the street. I propose a West Side Story dance-off at halftime. We both walk down Nicollet Avenue snapping our fingers in unison until we meet halfway. Sickest moves after 10 minutes wins. Losers buy beers.

I am only like 21% kidding. Let me know, Spurs.

No. 1: Manchester City vs Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinals
When: Sunday at 11AM on Fox Sports 2, Fox Deportes or FoxSoccer2Go
Last year:  Wigan pulled one of the great upsets by beating Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium

A rematch of what was one of the more memorable FA Cup finals ever. The soon-to-be-relegated Wigan beat the giants from Manchester 1-0. It was such a joy to watch a team like that win a trophy. The looks on the faces players and fans...man, just thinking about it gives me that weird watering sensation in my eyes like when I watch The Notebook. Can they pull the same trick twice? Doubtful, especially since City are at home. But you never know. Like I alway say, that’s why we watch.

That's enough for this week. Remember that the MLS kicks off this weekend, with Seattle hosting Kansas City on Saturday at 2PM on NBC Sports Network. Hopefully Clint Dempsey will show some signs of life so the odds of me having that weird Notebook eye-watering sensation after the group-stage matches at the World Cup decreases.

Until next week, be sure to tip your servers and waiters at your favorite soccer watering hole this weekend.

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