The Premier League is put on hold for a few days as this weekend heralds the return of the FA Cup. The fourth round draw has thrown up a number of tasty clashes, with local rivalries a plenty and a couple of stand-out ties. The excitement commences on Friday Night and continues right through the weekend, here is a full list of the fixtures including kick-off times, and a brief preview of the ties.
Friday January 27th
Watford vs Tottenham Hotspur, 19:45 GMT (ESPN)
Everton vs Fulham 20:00 GMT
Saturday, 28 January 2012
Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea 12:00 GMT
Liverpool vs Man Utd, 12:45 GMT (ITV 1)
Blackpool vs Sheffield Wed, 15:00 GMT
Bolton Wanderers vs Swansea City, 15:00 GMT
Derby County vs Stoke City, 15:00 GMT
Hull City vs Crawley Town, 15:00 GMT
Leicester City vs Swindon Town 15:00 GMT
Millwall vs Southampton 15:00 GMT
Sheffield Utd vs Birmingham City, 15:00 GMT
Stevenage Borough vs Notts County, 15:00 GMT
West Bromich Albion vs Norwich City, 15:00 GMT
Brighton vs Newcastle Utd, 17:15 GMT (ESPN)
Sunday, 29 January 2012
Sunderland vs Middlesbrough, 13:30 GMT (ITV 1)
Arsenal vs Aston Villa, 16:00 GMT (ESPN)
Some plum ties ahead for 4th Round weekend, and a guarantee that plenty of Premier League teams will exit the competition as the draw threw up, no fewer than, six all Premier League clashes.
In, undoubtedly, the tie of the round, Liverpool play host to, bitter rivals, Manchester United in what promises to be an explosive encounter. This is the first time that the teams have met since the Evra/Suarez incident earlier in the season and tensions will be running high. United will be without Nani, with Ferguson to make a decision on Evra’s involvement, and Liverpool will be without Suarez and Lucas. Liverpool have had the edge over United in recent years, especially at home, and the 1-1 draw at Anfield earlier this season flattered Ferguson’s men. Bearing that in mind, I would expect Kenny Dalglish’s Reds to edge this tie and be in the hat for the 5th Round. Everton take on Fulham in another all Premier League clash. There’s no love lost between these two teams, and Everton old boy Andy Johnson, could line up against his former club. The Toffees’ home form has been patchy this term, to say the least, however, Fulham’s away form is dreadful; David Moyes will be hoping that his side can sneak this one at home, because if it goes to a replay, you’d have to fancy Fulham. Norwich travel to West Brom. for the second time in three weeks. Paul Lambert’s Canaries won their last match at the Hawthorns, against an Albion side that cannot win at home under Roy Hodgson, and I would expect them to be too strong on this occasion too.
Q.P.R., under new boss Mark Hughes, face a home clash with, West London rivals, Chelsea, a team that they beat earlier in the season. Chelsea’s form has been indifferent in recent months, a fact that has seen them slip out of the Premier League title race. Rangers have seen their fortunes lift since Hughes took over and could certainly cause the Blues some problems. The match will also see Anton Ferdinand and John Terry face-off for the first time since the England Captain was caught on camera, allegedly, hurling racist abuse at the Rangers defender, so emotions are bound to run high. This is a tricky one to call, but with Chelsea missing Drogba, Kalou and probably Lampard, amongst others, Rangers might just cause a mini-upset on Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s early kick-off is a massive local derby between Sunderland and Middlesborough. Sunderland Captain, Lee Cattermole, will line up against his home town club, his team in the midst of a great run of results since Martin O’Neill was handed control, and they’ll be looking to continue that by knocking Boro out of the cup. Middlesborough are flying high in the Championship at the moment and have a decent away record this season, with 7 wins from 13 games. I would expect the Black Cats, with home advantage, to come out on top this Sunday, and keep their excellent run going.
Arsenal face Aston Villa at the Emirates in Sunday’s late kick-off in another all Premier League tie. The two teams met just before Christmas, with Arsenal eking out a 2-1 victory, much to the disappointment of the travelling Villains. However, the Gunners have lost three league games in a row, so their form is not tip-top coming into this game; Villa are unpredictable, having produced a number of good away performances this season. This could be a tale of two Premier League prodigal sons, with both Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane likely to feature for their respective clubs on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see which one of them will have the last laugh. For my money Arsenal will be in the draw come Sunday evening, but it’s no sure thing. Bolton and Swansea make up the last all Premier League 4th Round fixture. Bolton, despite last week’s shock victory over Liverpool, have the worst home record in the top division, winning just twice at the Reebok so far this season. Their opponents Swansea have the worst away record in the top division, with just one victory on their travels so far. League form is immaterial when it comes to the cup, and something has to give on Saturday. If Swansea can get their passing game going then they should be too good for Bolton, however if Wanderers can get put pressure on the Swans early and get a goal, it’ll be a different story. I fancy Swansea to take it, but it could go either way.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United host Birmingham City on Saturday, United are flying high in League 1 and have a fantastic home record this season, losing just twice so far. City are climbing the Championship table but have a terrible away record, winning just three times on the road, so a potential upset is on the cards. Blackpool face Sheffield Wednesday, with the Seasiders in good form, especially at home. Wednesday are in great form too and their away record is impressive, to say the least. Another potential upset in store here, but I have a funny feeling that this one will end up all square have to go to a replay. Newcastle face a tricky away tie at Championship side Brighton, Alan Pardew’s Magpies should have enough to see off Gus Poyet’s team though. Likewise, Stoke’s trip to Derby is not an easy tie, the Rams have an excellent home record this season and will be no pushovers. Tony Pulis’ men, however, have had a great season so far and their away record is surprisingly good; I would expect them, to emerge victorious. Hull shouldn’t have too many problems seeing off League 2 side Crawley Town. Although Crawley have had a good season so far, so have the Championship side, and Hull’s home form is solid.
The action all kicks-off on Friday night as Harry Redknapp, fresh from a week in court, takes his Spurs side across London to Watford. Watford are not enjoying a good season and currently sit 18th in the Championship, Spurs, on the other hand are 3rd in the Premier League and have an excellent away record this season. I don’t envisage an upset. In an all Championship clash, Millwall take on Southampton at the New Den. This is an intriguing tie as Southampton are suffering a bit of a wobble in terms of form at the moment, and their away form has been abysmal in the league, with just 4 wins from 13. Millwall aren’t having the best of seasons but their home form is decent, having lost just 4 from 14. I see this one being a draw, Saints to take the replay and go through. Stevenage and Notts. County go head to head in an all League 1 match on Saturday, Stevenage are the better side this season, and, with home advantage, I’d fancy them to be in the draw on Sunday. Finally, Swindon Town, the lowest placed side still in the competiton, face an away trip to, Championship side, Leicester City on Saturday. Leicester sit 13th in the Championship and have had an indifferent season so far, Swindon are having a decent time of it and currently sit 4th in League 2. This is a hard one to judge but I would not be surprised to see, Paolo di Canio’s, Swindon Town in the hat for the 5th round when the dust settles.