Four things we learnt from the FA Cup

Chelsea dug deep to reach the FA Cup semi-finals and ease the pressure on Blues boss Antonio Conte, while Manchester United’s progress to the last four did little to improve Jose Mourinho’s mood.

Here’s what we learnt from the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend:

Chelsea’s show of strength

Antonio Conte has often complained this season of the hand given to him by the Chelsea hierarchy in the transfer market. However, the Italian was able to draw on impressive reserves to get over the line at Leicester and arrest a worrying slump. The English champions have fallen well off the pace in the race for a top-four place in the Premier League and exited the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona in midweek. But they remain in the hunt for silverware as Pedro Rodriguez came off the bench along with Cesc Fabregas, Gary Cahill and Olivier Giroud to guide Conte’s tiring side into the last four. Moreover, they will more than fancy their chances of reaching the final once more after drawing Premier League strugglers Southampton in the semis.

Matic is Mourinho’s only saving grace

United boss Jose Mourinho was scathing in his criticism of the vast majority of his players despite reaching the last four. The exception was Nemanja Matic, who Mourinho described as “an island of personality of desire, of control, surrounded by lack of personality, lack of class, lack of desire.” Matic showed no little quality either in picking out Romelu Lukaku with a pinpoint cross before heading in the second himself. Yet, for all the Serb’s unquestionable attributes, there is no question Mourinho is also trying to protect himself by praising a player he requested to be reunited with from his Chelsea days last summer.

No Kane? No problem, as Eriksen shines

With Harry Kane sidelined for several weeks while he recovers from an ankle ligament injury, Tottenham need Christian Eriksen to shoulder the responsibility of driving his side forward. On the evidence of Saturday’s 3-0 win at Swansea, the Denmark playmaker is up to the task. Eriksen has always been one of Tottenham’s most influential players, with his sublime passing and clever movement so instrumental in allowing Kane to flourish in front of him. But the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught up to Eriksen’s excellence. He seized the chance to shine without Kane at the Liberty Stadium, opening the scoring with a blistering long-range effort in the first half and rounding off the victory after the interval with a cool finish from the edge of the area. Still chasing their first silverware under boss Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham need Eriksen to maintain his red-hot form until the end of the season.

Hughes optimistic as Saints advance

Mark Hughes believes Southampton are ready to win their Premier League relegation battle after his new club beat Wigan 2-0 to reach the FA Cup semi-finals. After a scrappy first half against the third tier giant-killers, Saints scored second half goals through Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares to make the last four for the first time in 15 years. Now Hughes, sacked by Stoke earlier this season, must improve Southampton’s league form — they have won just once in the last 17 games and sit two points from safety. The early signs are encouraging and Hughes said: “This was an important fixture. Clearly our Premier League status is a huge concern to us and we want to retain that and that is a big part of the remit I have. “We had to show a lot of the qualities and traits a good team has to show on a regular basis and maybe that hasn’t been sustained before me coming to the club.”

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