Another sumptuous feast of cup action can be expected this weekend, as we look forward to the fourth round. Although again dominated by a clash of the big boys in the case of Liverpool versus Manchester United, there are still 16 lower league teams left in the competition all plotting a route to the fifth round at least. Here are eight games to watch out for:
WATFORD v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 19:45, Vicarage Road (Friday)
The Fourth Round kicks off with a sort of derby, certainly as far as many of the supporters of the two clubs – whose boundaries overlap – are concerned. Watford have endured a disappointing season in the Championship and their 4-2 defeat of Bradford in the last round was their only spot of joy amid a spell of three league defeats. To make matters worse, they’ve won only one of their last ten FA Cup matches against Premier League opponents.
Even more ominous for the Hornets, Spurs have lost only one of their last 33 against lower league clubs. In contrast to Watford they are of course having their best season in well over 20 years, but in the wake of their last two league results and increasing injuries, some pundits are predicting a stall. Still, Harry Redknapp should be able to end a challenging week for him personally with a victory.
Watford – Loach; Dickinson, Mariappa, Doyley, Nosworthy, Eustace, Yeats, Forsyth, Hogg, Deeney, Sordell
Tottenham – Cudicini, Bassong, Dawson, Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Kranjcar, Rose, Livermore, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe
Recent form: Watford - DWLWLL; Tottenham – DWWWDL
QUEENS PARK RANGERS v CHELSEA 12:00, Loftus Road (Saturday)
In all likelihood whatever the outcome of this early kick-off the main post-match talking points will revolve around the reacquaintance of Anton Ferdinand and John Terry for the first time since the October game in which the latter is alleged to have racially abused the former.
Terry will largely have evaded the English press this week thanks to Chelsea’s midwinter training break in Majorca, but he’ll be sure to receive a ‘warm’ welcome when he steps out in front of the QPR fans. Thankfully, a joint statement from the clubs has warned that any discriminatory chanting will not be tolerated.
Mark Hughes will be preparing his team for his first west London derby as QPR manager. The Welshmen will do very well to equal the 1-0 win predecessor Neil Warnock achieved in the aforementioned game, although that was a struggle even with a two-man advantage for over half the match. Gary Cahill should make his Chelsea debut.
QPR – Myhill; Murphy, Caldwell, Ridgewell, Davies, Burke, N’Daw, Beausejour, Fahey, King, Zigic
Chelsea – Cech; Cole, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Romeu, Ramires, Meireles, Torres, Mata, Sturridge
Recent form: QPR – ; Chelsea – DLWWWD
LIVERPOOL v MANCHESTER UNITED 12:45, Anfield
If Manchester United are to win the FA Cup this season for the first time in eight years they will have to do it the hard way. They could never have imagined that in order to simply make the fifth round they’d have to beat both their fiercest rivals on their own patches.
Nevertheless if there was ever a side that thrives on the big occasion it is United under Sir Alex Ferguson and having seen off City in the last round they’ll be confident of defeating their rivals from Merseyside in this one, even though stricken by injuries.
Liverpool have the slight disadvantage of only having played on Wednesday, but the buzz derived from making the Carling Cup final coupled with the excitement and anticipation centred around any game with United should mean their energy is not found wanting. They will also want revenge for going out the competition to United last season in Kenny Dalglish’s first match as returning manager.
Liverpool – Reina; Jose Enrique, Coates, Carragher, Kelly; Gerrard, Maxi, Downing, Adam, Carroll, Bellamy
Man United – De Gea; Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling, Fabio, Anderson, Giggs, Park, Valencia, Berbatov, Hernandez
Recent form: Liverpool – LWWDLD; Man United – WLLWWW
DERBY COUNTY v STOKE CITY 15:00, Pride Park
So solid have Derby been in recent weeks they will fancy their chances of nicking a narrow win in this Midlands derby. Nigel Clough’s men have kept four clean sheets in a row and lost just twice in their last ten games.
Stoke never make games easy for their opponents though and in their last game against lower league opposition – Gillingham away in the third round – they won comfortably despite going a goal down early on. Tony Pulis would love a return trip to Wembley following last season’s final defeat, but may be less focused on the cup this year with a tasty Europa League date with Valencia coming up.
Although Clough’s prerogative will be to make the Championship play-offs, Derby may still find more of an appetite for this game, which could favour them.
Derby – Fielding; Brayford, Roberts, Barker, Shackell, Bryson, Bailey, Green, Ward, Robinson, Ball
Stoke – Begovic; Huth, Wilson, Shawcross, Woodgate, Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Shotton, Crouch, Jerome
Recent form: Derby – WWWWWD; Stoke – DDWWDL
HULL CITY v CRAWLEY TOWN 15:00, The KC Stadium
Crawley will have to work very hard to match their achievement of reaching the fifth round last year. However, the West Sussex side, one of only two League Two sides left in the competition, did put out a Bristol City team that had won their last two in the third round and their relative success in the competition recently means they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Hull – Mannone; Rosenior, Dawson, Chester, Hobbs, McKenna, Stewart, Evans, Koren, McLean, Brady
Crawley – Shearer; Howell, Mills, McFadzean, Davis, Torres, Hunt, Bulman, Neilson, Tubbs, Barnett
Recent form: Hull – LLLWWW; Crawley – LWDWDD
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION v NEWCASTLE UNITED 17:15, The Amex Stadium
If you were to judge by Brighton’s third round defeat of non-league Wrexham, which required a replay and penalties, you wouldn’t give them much of a chance in this match, but of course the FA Cup being what it is anything can happen. Conversely, Brighton’s cultured playing style under Gus Poyet could in fact thrive against top tier opposition.
Goalkeeper Peter Brezovan was their penalty-saving hero against the Welsh side, he’ll expect to be busy against a Newcastle team who always look capable of scoring.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is probably still wondering how his men managed to concede five at Fulham last week after a first half they’d dominated. He’ll be looking for them to bounce back with a solid win.
Brighton – Brezovan; Greer, Dunk, El-Abd, Calderon, Navarro, Sparrow, Bridcutt, Barnes, Buckley, Mackail-Smith
Newcastle – Krul; Coloccini, Simpson, Williamson, R. Taylor, Cabaye, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Best, Shola Ameobi
Recent form: Brighton – LWDWDW; Newcastle – WLWWWL
SUNDERLAND v MIDDLESBROUGH 13:30, The Stadium of Light (Sunday)
Sunday’s first match showcases the first Wear-Tees derby for three years. Such is the juggernaut Sunderland have become under Martin O’Neill it would be a major shock if the result was anything but a comfortable home win. The Black Cats breezed past Peterborough in the last round, while Dutchman Marvin Emnes was Boro’s hero with the only goal against spirited Shrewsbury.
Regrettably missing for Boro will be Julio Arca, who spent six years at Sunderland, following his dismissal at Coventry last weekend. Tony Mowbray’s boys have had a downturn of form in the Championship recently, losing their last three matches, so it’s hard to see an upset here.
Sunderland – Mignolet; Bardsley, Brown, Richardson, O’Shea, Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, McClean, Wickham, Sessegnon
Middlesbrough – Coyne, Hoyte, Bennett, Bates, Williams, Thomson, Robson, Smallwood, Haroun, McDonald, Emnes
Recent form: Sunderland – DWWWLW; Middlesbrough - WDLWLL
ARSENAL v ASTON VILLA 16:00, The Emirates
Arsenal will be hoping to have Thierry Henry available again after he missed out last weekend against Manchester United due to injury. Another goal to add to his matchwinner in the last round against Leeds wouldn’t go amiss either. The fans, meanwhile, will be equally optimistic that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gets another start after his scintillating display last week was cut short much to their derision.
Villa raced into a three-goal lead in the third round at Bristol Rovers, but were made to sweat when the home side fought to within a missed penalty of 3-2 with momentum in their favour, and Alex McLeish’s men can’t afford such complacency here. Robbie Keane has had as instant an impact for them as Henry has for Arsenal, and it could be a final FA Cup appearance for one of the America-based duo.
Arsenal – Almunia; Vermaelen, Squillaci, Miquel, Yennaris, Rosicky, Ramsey, Song, Henry, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin
Villa – Guzan; Hutton, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Petrov, Clark, Bent, Keane
Recent form: Arsenal – WLWDWL; Villa – DWLWDW
The lowest ranked team left in the competition are Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon, from League Two, who face a not especially glamorous trip to Leicester. There are all Premier League clashes between Everton and Fulham, on Friday night, and Bolton and Swansea and West Brom and Norwich on Saturday.
The remaining games include Sheffield Wednesday against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, Birmingham travelling to Sheffield United, and an all-Championship encounter between Millwall and Southampton.
Finally, there will be at least one League One outfit in the fifth round, as Stevenage entertain Notts County.
Tags: Anton Ferdinand, Chelsea, Crawley, FA Cup, John Terry, Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool, Manchester United, Paolo Di Canio, Queens Park Rangers, Sir Alex Ferguson, Swindon Town