By Neil Leverett
- FA Cup fourth round action begins on Friday night as Yeovil Town host Manchester United
- No less than eight top-flight teams face lower-league opposition this weekend
- 32 sides will vie for a place in next month’s last 16, a step closer to Wembley in May
EMIRATES FA CUP, UK – As league actions steps aside for the weekend, the FA Cup fourth round swings into gear, with Huish Park and Newport County’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur at Rodney Parade taking centre stage, with a number of potential banana skins to be negotiated.
Glovers eye Cup shock
Kicking FA Cup fourth-round weekend sees Yeovil Town host Manchester United at Huish Park. History has not been kind to the hosts in the three times the duo have met down the years – with the Glovers yet to score a single goal since pre-WWII in 1938.
The Red Devils last traveled to the West Country three years ago in round three of the same competition, where goals from Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria led the visitors to a comfortable home victory.
The FA Cup has in recent years regained its’ gloss however and after a 2-0 win over Bradford City earlier this month, Darren Way’s men might not be so pessimistic about their fortunes.
The game may be most significant in what is likely to be Alexis Sanchez’s debut for United after his much-publicised move from Arsenal this week. Jose Mourinho is usually one to take the cup seriously so Yeovil could be forced to contend with the likes of Paul Pogba, however with a trip to top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night to come, there may yet be a far amount of rotation.
There will be a raucous atmosphere in Somerset this Friday evening, so can Yeovil do the unthinkable and knock out the former FA Cup winners?
Can Newport repeat victory against Spurs?
Newport County were amongst the giant-killers of the last round of the cup, after humbling Leeds United at Rodney Parade courtesy of Shawn McCoulsky’s late headed winner. A repeat result on Saturday however would be a far greater feat, as the Exiles face a Tottenham Hotspur side capable of dominating even the best.
The Welsh side having staved off relegation from the football league on the final day of last season in League Two, now sit just a point outside the playoff places in eighth and eyeing an unlikely promotion to League One in May.
Spurs have been a force to reckon with at home in the Premier League, but on the bobbly and wonderfully uncertain bounce of the Rodney Parade turf the Mauricio Pochettino’s men could be in for an awkward teatime this Saturday.
Last year’s semi-finalists will be wanting to keep their hunt for silverware on the go, ahead of their first season next year in the their new home, and like Man United have won all four of their prior meetings to date.
West Ham face tough trip north
After scraping through in a replay versus Shrewsbury ten days ago, West Ham United face a rather testing trip to League One leaders Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Since their fall from grace after an eight-year spell in the English top flight ended in 2013, the Latics are once again looking to regain former glories under Paul Cook.
The winners of the competition in 2013 – just weeks before their drop down the Championship – will be remembered as one of the greatest shocks cup history after Ben Watson’s injury-time goal against Manchester City under the Wembley arch, and this weekend’s contest sees perhaps the biggest chance of a ‘cupset’.
Though now a reformed side, the Hammers face a side in red-hot form with a five-point lead at the top of the league standings, and – no less – having convincingly taken apart AFC Bournemouth in their own replay at home in round three.
With boss David Moyes juggling the absence of key player Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic and Andy Carroll, this really does look a potential banana skin for the visitors who will do well to keep Will Grigg from adding to his 12 goals this term.
Posh outing for Foxes
Peterborough United’s reward for eliminating Aston Villa last time out is a home tie against Leicester City – and no doubt the iconic Barry Fry will be attendance this weekend at London Road.
Like Wigan, Posh are in the upper echelons of the League One table and are becoming a growing force in the third-tier of English football.
Leicester City rather ambled through 180 of play against Fleetwood Town and will be conscious of further problems against a team on a similar level – if not slightly elevated – as Claude Puel’s charges make the relatively short trip from the East Midlands.
Jack Marriott will be buoyed after his brace against the Villans in front of a home crowd, and despite the rather more illustrious status of former Premier League winners to Cambridgeshire, Peterborough will be a handful for the visitors.
The two sides have never met in the FA Cup, but when last they met in the Championship, Posh edged Leicester by two-goals-to-one in 2013. It will be difficult for Grant McCann’s men to get a result, but the seeds of hope are there.
Best of the rest
Other games which on paper stand out include Manchester City’s trip to Cardiff City on Sunday afternoon. Had this game come a few months earlier, the Bluebirds may have been a more formidable foe in the principality, but after a run of horrendous form and an unhappy Christmas for manager Neil Warnock, the visitors will probably be more than capable of staving off a still rather tricky cup tie.
Nottingham Forest’s reward for dumping holders Arsenal out the cup is a trip to struggling Hull City at the KC Stadium. It would typical for the visitors to come to grief after such a glorious result at the City Ground three weeks ago, but that possibility remains.
In a first for the oldest tournament in the world, Saturday evening sees Liverpool host West Brom at Anfield in a weekend night game. Having lost to Swansea last Monday in the league, and with the Baggies having gone unbeaten in the last three games, can Alan Pardew cause another surprise on Merseyside?
Meanwhile at Meadow Lane, the Swans themselves look to avoid lower-league defeat to the Magpies, as County look to join city rivals Forest in the hat for the fifth round next month.
The FA Cup fourth round takes place this weekend between the 26th and 28th of January
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