The FA Cup Fourth Round: Preview
This weekend is another break from the Barclays Premier league, but that does not mean that it will be a weekend bereft of top-quality football action and unrivalled drama. In fact, this weekend promises to be a veritable oasis of enticing match-ups and top class entertainment as the FA Cup returns with thirty-two teams (fourteen from the Premier League, eleven form the Championship, four from League One and three from League Two) battling it out for a place at Wembley in May.
Big guns going head-to-head
With fourteen Premier league clubs having advanced to the Fourth Round, there are three all-top-flight games taking place on Saturday. Perhaps the most high profile of these will be at Anfield where seven-time winners Liverpool face three-time victors West Ham. This can also be advertised as match between the teams currently occupying sixth and seventh in the Premier League, with the higher-placed Hammers emerging victorious in both their meetings so far, including a first win at Anfield since 1963. Can lightning strike twice in the same season? The other all-Premier league ties feature bottom-placed Aston Villa at home to Manchester City, and mid-table Crystal Palace and Stoke City going head-to-head at Selhurst Park, the latter being a difficult match to call. The only certainty is that there will be three high-profile casualties when the Fifth Round commences in February.
Minnows seek glory
The lowest ranked side currently in the competition are Carlisle United, who currently sit in tenth in League Two, and their reward for reaching the round-of-32 is the visit of Premier League giants Everton – five time winners of the famous old trophy. Carlisle’s Brunton Park home was recently flooded as a result of the inclement weather afflicting the UK, so the residents of this Cumbrian city certainly deserve their day in the sun on Sunday. Fallen Portsmouth, lest we forget winners of this very trophy in 2008 and a Premier League club as recently as 2010, currently sit fifth in league Two and host Premier League Bournemouth, while Oxford United, third in the fourth tier and vanquishers of top flight Swansea City in Round Three, host Championship side and six-times winners Blackburn Rovers. There are five League One sides remaining in the competition, and Shrewsbury Town, Colchester United and Bury have all been rewarded with home ties against Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City respectively, while Walsall will visit Reading and Peterborough United travel to The Hawthorns to play West Bromwich Albion.
Holders Arsenal, winners from the last two campaigns and record twelve times winners overall, face Championship side Burnley, whilst eleven-time winners Manchester United and seven-time champions Chelsea face trips to Championship sides Derby County and MK Dons. All three of those teams will be hot favourites to progress of course.
Championship side Nottingham Forest, twice winners, will host Watford, beaten finalists in 1984, while there is an all-Championship tie at the Macron Stadium as rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers , four-times holders of the old trophy, face 1972 winners Leeds United.
Selected Games Odds
Derby County V Manchester United, Friday 29/01/16 at 19.55 GMT
Derby County 4.00, Draw 3.40, Manchester United 1.90
Arsenal V Burnley, Saturday 30/01/16 at 15.00 GMT
Arsenal 1.36, Draw 4.75, Burnley 8.50
Aston Villa V Manchester City, Saturday 30/01/16 at 15.00 GMT
Aston Villa 4.75, Draw 3.60, Manchester City 1.72
Liverpool V West Ham United, Saturday 30/01/16 at 17.30 GMT
Liverpool 2.00, Draw 3.40, West Ham United 3.75
MK Dons V Chelsea, Sunday 31/01/16 at 16.00 GMT
MK Dons 9.00, Draw 5.00, Chelsea 1.33
To Win Outright
Manchester City 6.00
Manchester United 8.00
Tottenham Hotspur 9.00