Middlesbrough v Burton Albion
Of all the teams left in the Carabao Cup `Giantkillers` Burton were drawn against the one team they are most likely to succeed against, Middlesbrough. That`s not to say it will be any easier against a team that don`t concede many goals for a side that don`t score many.
If Burton do score first they may have a chance but the impetus `Boro would gain towards the Premier League push they seek by reaching the semi-finals should be the incentive the Teeside outfit need.
Tony Pulis always makes it difficult to score against his sides and they have only conceded an astonishingly low 9 goals in 18 Championship games as they stride neck and neck with Norwich at the top of the table. Indeed only unbeaten Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League have conceded less, five goals.
On the other hand `Boro have only managed 21 goals in the Championship, a factor that Pulis will address in January.
Burton struggled from the start of the season but as the clocks went back Nigel Clough`s team, boosted by their Carabao Cup victory over Nottingham Forest, clawed their way into mid-table. Albion are struggling in the league and will continue to do so but this is the cup.
On form and on paper `Boro should win. But that was the way it was supposed to go against Forest and look what happened there.
Burton have nothing to lose and don`t forget its not so long back that Bradford reached the Final of this competition.
It may be a low scoring scrap but I take Tony Pulis` team to prevail
Prediction: Middlesbrough to progress
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur
Had this game been played a few weeks earlier the momentum Spurs had would have been immense but since then the Gunners have extended their streak of form that must be worrying for Mauricio Pochettino. Arsenal were preparing for the first of their North London derbies on the back of a 17 game unbeaten run.
Spurs on the other hand won five in a row after losing their unbeaten run to Manchester City, the fifth of those wins being their best performance for some time, the 3-1 victory over Chelsea.
Add to that the characterful way Tottenham approached the must-win game against Inter to keep their UCL hopes alive until the last group game spoke volumes for the improvement in mentality Pochettino has achived. It also reinforced his own mental strength when he left Eriksen and Son out of the starting line-up before allowing the Dane on to enhance his growing reputation on the world stage with the vital goal 10 minutes from time to further underline his importance to the team.
Much has been said about Unai Emery`s rejuvenation of Arsenal and he deserves much credit for the extra steel in the Gunners` ranks but there are still too many signs of a lack of character in some players when they have to dig deep. At the highest level any reduction in application, especially against top-class opposition, can have consequences.
Tottenham have often been criticised, in the past, for a similar lack of determination and application but after they beat West Ham in the cup and beat Wolves, despite one or two jitters, it was the emphatic way they tore Chelsea apart that drew the most praise as did the performance against Inter. For many it was a sign that the stability of manager and squad, despite the farce of waiting to move into the new WHL, is a good omen for the future.
One other factor that favours Tottenham is the resurgence of Moussa Sissoko, a player finally getting near his potential. His power and surging runs into the opposing penalty area is something Arsenal will struggle to handle.
I think the most important element of the eventual victors here is how each defence deals with the opposing attack. Simplistic I know but bear with me.
Spurs` back line has better protection ahead of it in midfield than Arsenal possess and Harry Kane is more of a match winner than any of the Arsenal attack so I take Spurs to win.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth
For many this is the most intriguing of the Carabao quarter-finals.
Had this been played a month ago Chelsea would have been hot favourites. They still should go through but in the last few weeks, despite an incredible run of Hazard-inspired form, up to the Spurs game, Bournemouth have improved their standing.
Not only have the `Cherries` been enhancing their status as a Premier League team their players have been carrying the flag up to the next level, on an individual basis a factor that has intensified their team ethic- five of the players who started against Arsenal were in the side that gained promotion to the Premier League.
Callum Wilson won his first cap for England and in doing so became the first Bournemouth player EVER to score for England. And in the same way he showed tremendous character to come back after a series of serious injuries he showed similar determination in shaking off the disappointment of missed chances before finally netting against the USA at Wembley.
Lewis Cook has been integral to England Under 21`s 22 game unbeaten run, alerting Spurs in the process. Cook also made his mark by becoming the first ever Bournemouth player to win an England cap.
Ryan Fraser has been a revelation for Scotland as they won their UEFA Nations League group
Then of course you have Chelsea`s stellar list of world class footballers.
On the night it will be a case of that old cup cliche, who`s up for it. An expression on which the outcome of this game could hinge.
Chelsea hit the buffers when they were taken apart by Spurs which drew an unprecedented level of criticism from Maurizio Sarri. It also saw a greater examination of all the hype surrounding Chelsea and for many they are still wanting.
The games ahead of this quarter final will be far more important to the London club than Bournemouth, for attitude as much as anything else. It will be interesting to see the make up of the Chelsea side and which players who faced Spurs are still in the side, or not.
Are Bournemouth capable of beating Chelsea, yes.
Should Chelsea beat Bournemouth, yes.
That`s why this is the most intriguing game of the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Neck on the line, Bournemouth
Leicester City v Manchester City
Leicester`s much delayed tie against Southampton finally decided the last quarter-finalists and unsurprisingly the two teams were so well matched it took penalties for the Foxes to earn a tilt at the best team in the country.
All at the King Power Stadium have dedicated their drive to win another League Cup to the memory of owner Vichai Scrivaddhanaprabha and with home support they may just have an edge when it comes to the tie but much will depend on the line up Pep Guardiola fields on the night.
There`s no doubt that Leicester`s fleet-footed attack are more than capable of upsetting perhaps the weakest ( and that is a relative word ) part of the City team, whoever plays. However it is in attack and midfield where the Premier League champions are pre-eminent.
Simplistically, even if Leicester manage two or three goals against City, it is a City side that is more than capable of scoring two or three or whatever is necessary.
Maybe the passion and intensity Leicester will generate on the night can prove the difference but Manchester City are slowly morphing into a football Leviathan, a huge, relentless beast that brushes aside all that presents itself before them.
I can`t see anything but a Manchester City win.
Prediction: Manchester City to win