With a bumper round of FA Cup matches this weekend with 16 games across 3 days, and only 2 all Premiership ties, it could shape up to provide some famous giant killings as teams look to book themselves a place in the 5th round.
We take a whistle-stop tour around some of the more intriguing games in our FA Cup preview.
Chelsea v Brentford – Saturday 3pm
This local Derby is set to be a great occasion as Brentford would love to take a huge scalp in the 4th round. Currently 15th in the EFL Championship, this will be no small task for Brentford who will take on Premier League leaders Chelsea currently in a fantastic run of form. Chelsea have won 13 of their last 14 matches in all competitions, after losing to Spurs earlier this month. With that said, we are expecting to see a much changed line up for Chelsea with Asmir Begovic set to start in goal despite rumours of a move to Bournemouth. Conte may also give the nod to Nathan Ake and Michy Batshuayi who will be keen to impress the Blues boss.
Chelsea and Brentford have met in recently in the FA Cup back in 2012/13, the 4th round tie needing a replay where Chelsea ran out winners. Chelsea have only been knocked out at this stage twice in the last 20 appearances but Brentford will know the task that is ahead of them. This is a chance to forget the rigors of the Championship and play with no pressure as no one expects them to take anything from the game.
Middlesbrough v Accrington Stanley – Saturday 3pm
One of those ties that can capture the imagination as Premier League side Middlesbrough take on 4th tier Accrington Stanley who have had a dreadful season so far, currently residing 20th in League 2.
It is a tough ask for John Coleman’s side knowing the club has never been beyond the 4th round in their history. The Last time they reached the 4th round back in 2010 they came unstuck to a 3-1 defeat against Fulham.
Accrington Stanley will be without has defender Matty Pearson who will be serving his first of a 3 match ban. They will need everyone on high alert as Middlesbrough striker lvaro Negredo has taken a liking to this competition scoring 4 goals in 5 FA Cup appearances.
You also consider Boro have won 9 of their past 10 FA Cup ties against sides from the 4th tier or lower it seems the writing’s already on the wall for the League 2 side.
Middlesbrough themselves will be without defender Calum Chambers after he suffered a stress fracture to his foot. There is a chance new arrivals Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford could start, but will be fully expected to at least be in the bench.
With Middlesbrough’s patient approach, it will be no surprise to see Accrington Stanley get bodies behind the ball to frustrate Boro and try their luck on the counter or set pieces. If they can get a goal it would be a fantastic moment and also add to the murmurs of discontent amongst some fans not happy with the style of football currently being played at the Riverside.
Tottenham Hotspur v Wycombe Wanderers – Saturday 3pm
Tottenham will more than likely give some of their youth team players a run out against the League 2 side with Mauricio Pochettino fully aware of the Premier League game against Sunderland on Tuesday. Pochettino has already confirmed star striker Harry Kane is out with a groin strain, but also defenders Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are out along with forward Erik Lamela. Wycombe could see this as the perfect time to cause an upset.
Wycombe themselves will be in high spirit currently 5th in League 2 as they have been working their way up the league, currently on a 16-match unbeaten run.
As Tottenham have a so many defenders out, Wycombe will be keen to unleast Adebayo ‘The Beast’ Akinfenwa, the well-travelled 16-stone striker who secured progression from the 3rd round with a late goal against Stourbridge.
The last time Wycombe reached the 4th round back in the 2000/01 season, they went all the way to the semi-final, losing to Liverpool who went on to win the cup. Gareth Ainsworth’s side will be hoping for something similar this year quoted say saying:
“There’s no pressure on us. It’ll be a brilliant day for Wycombe Wanderers….
…There are fairytales and upsets in this competition. If Spurs aren’t at their best then we have a chance. We believe in ourselves.”
Even with the injuries and expected squad selection changes, you do feel that Tottenham, at home will be just too much to Wycombe to handle. But sure they will have a great day regardless.
Southampton V Arsenal – Saturday 17.30
One of the 2 all Premier League encounters takes place as Saturday’s late afternoon kick off, a game that could genuinely go either way as Southampton could become the first team to knock Arsenal out of both domestic cups in the same season since Man United back in 1982/83.
Southampton will be full of confidence following their fantastic EFL Cup semi- final win at Anfield mid-week, the Saints with a great record of reaching the final having not conceded a single goal.
In fact Southampton have kept clean sheets in 4 of their last 5 encounters against Arsenal in all competitions and will really believe they can progress into the 5th round.
Southampton’s counter attacking football against Liverpool was fantastic so wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar tactic employed against the Gunners on Saturday. They will however be without Defender Van Dijk has an ankle injury which will be a great miss. Midfielder Ward-Prowse and forward Rodriguez both picked up knocks in Wednesday’s EFL Cup win at Liverpool so will also be out.
For Arsenal, this is a really tricky tie which will see Arsene Wenger watching from the stands as he faces the first of a 4 match touchline ban for pushing the 4th official in League win against Burnley. The Gunners will also be without Granit Xhaka who is suspended following his red card against Burnley last Sunday.
Arsenal have been a decent run of late after losing back-to-back games against Everton and Man City, they have since won six games on the bounce in all competitions. Arsenal also have a great record at this stage of the cup having progressed from 16 of their 20 FA Cup 4th round ties under Arsene Wenger. They will also know that Southampton have never beaten them in an FA Cup tie but how much will Tuesday’s Premier League game against Watford force Wenger’s hand with his squad selection?
Sutton United v Leeds United – Sunday 14.00
The much clichéd David versus Goliath comparison is bound to be used as these two teams meet on Sunday, as Sutton Utd remain as the lowest side in this year’s competition. They are currently placed 15 in the National League but battled valiantly and impressively in the last round defeating AFC Wimbledon 3-1 away from home. Sutton United have reached the 4th round of the FA Cup twice before on both occasion suffering heavy defeats, 8-0 to Norwich in 1989 and coincidently to Leeds United 6-0 in 1970.
Leeds United themselves have had a good season, and are in the mix for promotion to the Premier League, currently 3rd in the Championship.
With Sutton playing at home they will try and make this tie as difficult for Leeds as possible, but Leeds have won 6 of their 7 FA Cup ties against non-league opposition, and I don’t see that changing this Sunday.
Manchester United V Wigan Athletic – Sunday 16.00
The final game of this round sees Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United take on a Wigan side 21st in the Championship. This game does have an added twist as it will see former Man United youth Coach Warren Joyce return to Old Trafford.
Man United will need to be careful as the quality of the football they’ve been playing over the past 4 or 5 game games has taken a turn for the worse, a poor performance against Liverpool a couple of weeks back, a game they really needed to win to stamp their intent on the league. They then failed to capitalise with more dropped points against Stoke, only to lose 2-1 to Hull City in the EFL cup on Thursday. Whilst they progressed to the final, Jose will be concerned by the quality of their football of late, or lack thereof, and will look to freshen things up.
Mourinho confirmed Sergio Romero will start in goal for Manchester United, who have a fully-fit squad for Sunday’s FA Cup tie. Anthony Martial is expected to return following a week of paper talk about him unhappy with his lack of game time this season. United fans could also see Luke Shaw could return after missing 12 games with a groin problem. Eric Bailly is back from the Africa Cup of Nations following Ivory Coast’s exit however he might just make the bench. It could also be a chance for Axel Tuanzebe to get a run out, the highly rated Man United defender was mentioned in one of Mourinho’s recent press conferences.
Man United have a great record against Wigan and have scored at least 2 goals in 16 of their 17 wins against them. Whilst Man United have wobbled in recent years against lower opposition such as Crawley, Sheffield United and Yeovil, they only been eliminated just once in their last 40 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division which was against rivals Leeds United in 2010.
For Wigan this is a great time for them to play United and have a chance of causing an upset. United have looked poor of late, and were especially laboured against Hull on Thursday night. Wigan have had a full week to prepare for this game and must make it count. United are set to play Hull City once more, this time in the league on Wednesday so they will need to think about how best to balance the selection at such a congested period in the calendar as they are the only Premier League team still in 4 competitions.
Mourinho will expect a reaction from his team after the poor display against Hull. If he gets the reaction he wants, United will run out comfortable winners. However if they play anything like they did midweek, Wigan will put the pressure on and see this as a fantastic opportunity to get a huge scalp such as United that could help to kick start their season.
Other 4th Round Fixtures:
Derby County 2-2 Leicester City (Result)
Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Blackburn Rovers v Blackpool
Burnley v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Manchester City
Lincoln City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Oxford United v Newcastle United
Rochdale v Huddersfield Town
Millwall v Watford
Fulham v Hull City
By Michael Thatcher