We give you all the information you need ahead of this weekend’s F.A Cup action
The F.A Cup returns this weekend with a feast of fourth round action that includes some tough fixtures for the Premier League big boys. Manchester United and Arsenal face potential banana skins away to lower league opposition, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have home advantage against their own would be giant-killers; Bradford, Middlesbrough and Bolton respectively.
We here at SQ have trawled through the draw to give you all the information you need for the stand out matches, as well as my personal picks for game of the week, potential upsets and predictions.
Game Of The Week:
Abbey Stadium, Cambridge.
K.O Friday - 7.55pm (GMT), 1.55pm (CST), 2.55pm (EST), 11.55am (PST)
Last Meeting: Cambridge United 1-1 Manchester United (9th October 1991, League Cup)
Preview: Louis Van Gaal takes his star-studded United side to lowly Cambridge on Friday night hoping to avoid a potential giant-killing. English football’s most successful club were humiliated by MK Dons earlier this season -suffering a 4-0 defeat in the League Cup- although they came through a similar test away to Yeovil in the third round. They travel to the Abbey Stadium in decent form, with Southampton’s marvellous 1-0 win the only blemish in their last 13 games.
For Cambridge, they are the lowest ranked team still in the F.A Cup and will enter the match with nothing to lose. Much like their more illustrious opponents, The U’s are in good form, winning their last three on the trot and only losing two of their last ten games as they solidify a mid-table position. If Cambridge are to produce a shock then they will need to rely on top scorers Ryan Donaldson and Tom Elliot taking any chances that fall their way, while denying the likes of Wayne Rooney, Falcao and Angel Di Maria from scoring at the other end.
My View: I’d expect Cambridge to start with a high tempo and get in amongst Man United’s midfield. If they can capitalise on any early chances and grab the lead then we may well be in for a shock, but -as so often happens in these fixtures- the class and fitness of the better team should shine through. I think that the game will be tight for a majority of it, before Louis Van Gaal’s side pull away in the second half for a comfortable victory.
Other Games To Watch:
Ewood Park, Blackburn.
K.O Saturday 12.45pm (GMT), 6.45am (CST), 7.45am (EST), 4.45am (PST)
Preview: Championship side Blackburn will have their eyes firmly set on an upset as they welcome an out-of-sorts Swansea to Lancashire. Garry Monk’s side are without a win in five Premier League games and the sale of star striker Wilfred Bony to Manchester City was compounded by a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Chelsea on Saturday. To make matters worse, Ashley Williams and Wayne Routledge are doubts for the match after picking up injuries at the weekend while speedy winger Jefferson Montero is ruled out with a pulled hamstring. Despite the negatives, their 6-2 demolition of Tranmere in round three is a measure of the depth and professionalism within the squad, which will be needed on Saturday. For Gary Bowyer’s side, they will be hoping their deadly strike duo of top goal-scorer Rudy Gestede and record signing Jordan Rhodes can fire Blackburn into round five. That is, of course, if Gestede is still a part of the Rovers side, after Bowyer confirmed that an unnamed Premier League club is in talks to sign the Benin International.
My View: This should be a tight game. Blackburn are a decent team and have some real firepower upfront to trouble what could be a makeshift Swansea defence. An upset is by no means out of the question, but I believe that the Welsh side will at least secure a draw and try to finish the job at the Liberty Stadium.
K.O Saturday 5.30pm (GMT), 11.30am (CST), 12.30pm (EST), 9.30am (PST)
Preview: Liverpool face a quick turnaround from their midweek clash against Chelsea, as they entertain an improving Bolton Wanderers at Anfield. With the semi-final return leg on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers will have to juggle his line-up to avoid fatigue. Players such as Borini, Rossiter and Ibe may all be given run-outs, while Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling are likely to be rested. For Bolton, they will want to improve a run of ten defeats in eleven games against the Reds and experienced striker Emile Heskey is included in the squad to face his former employers. The Championship side can take encouragement from the last two teams to knock Liverpool out of the F.A Cup at Anfield; Barnsley and Reading were both playing at the same level when they managed the feat in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
My View: Much will depend on what team Brendan Rodgers decides to put out. Their priorities may lie with another meeting against Chelsea on Wednesday, in which case Bolton have every chance of picking up a famous win. However, my gut feeling is that Liverpool will edge it without the need for a replay.
Villa Park, Birmingham.
K.O Sunday 3pm (GMT), 9am (CST), 10am (EST), 7am (PST)
Preview: Relegation-threatened Aston Villa take on Championship leaders Bournemouth at Villa Park on Sunday with all signs pointing to an upset. Goal-shy Villa have found the net just eleven times in their 22 Premier League games -the lowest across all divisions- while the Cherries are on the other side of the spectrum, as their 57 goals is the highest tally in all four divisions of English football. The Villains have gone out of the F.A Cup to lower league opposition in successive seasons, losing 2-1 on both occasions to Millwall and Sheffield United. Paul Lambert’s side have already been humbled by a 1-0 defeat at home to Leyton Orient in the League Cup this season as well, and their task is made even tougher by the absence of Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Captain Ron Vlaar. For Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, their attacking trio -Callum Wilson, Yann Kermorgent and Brett Pitman- have scored 30 goals between them so far and should cause major problems for Villa’s defence.
My View: If there is ever a case for an upset, then this is it. Bournemouth are flying high in the Championship and certainly know how to find the net, which is why I’m going for an away win. I’d expect the Cherries to attack Villa from the start and if they score early then this could be a hammering, as Lambert’s side just can’t create enough chances to turn a game around.
K.O Monday 8pm (GMT), 2pm (CST), 3pm (EST), 12pm (PST)
Preview: League One Rochdale lock horns with Stoke on Monday with every chance of causing a giant-killing. The Dale currently occupy a play-off position in England’s third tier and they have already claimed a notable scalp in this season’s competition by dumping out Nottingham Forest with a 1-0 victory. Since then, Keith Hill’s side have won both of their resulting games and they can now take that confidence into Monday’s fixture. Their main threats will be top goal scorers Matt Done, Ian Henderson and Peter Vincenti who have combined to score 76 percent of Rochdale’s 47 goals so far. For Stoke, the absence of their own hit-man Mame Biram Diouf to the AFCON will be a big blow. The likes of Bojan and Peter Crouch should cause enough problems for Mark Hughes side, who got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win away at Leicester on Saturday.
My View: Home advantage could prove crucial in this one as Spotland will be packed to the rafters and fully behind the underdogs. Stoke struggled past non-league Wrexham in the last round and i don’t think they have the mental toughness to win this game with a rotated team. That may sound harsh but Rochdale will be right up for this and the Premier League side have to match them in tenacity and willingness, which I don’t think they will. This will be a tight, full bloodied affair and I’m going for a narrow home win.
Full Fixture List
Cambridge United v Manchester United
Blackburn v Swansea
Birmingham v West Brom
Cardiff v Reading
Chelsea v Bradford
Derby v Chesterfield
Manchester City v Middlesbrough
Preston v Sheffield United
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Sunderland v Fulham
Tottenham v Leicester City
Liverpool v Bolton
Bristol City v West Ham
Aston Villa v Bournemouth
Brighton v Arsenal
Rochdale v Stoke
Edited by Lauren Anderson.
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