Black and White

It’s time to go cup crazy! FA Cup 4th round weekend is often the last scene of the underdog as all 32 teams involved this weekend are 3 wins from Wembley. It sounds so easy when you put it like that. Although not quite as rough as the third round, the scheduling is still far from ideal as we come off the back of a midweek round of Premier League fixtures. Let’s see what out 14 surviving Premier League clubs are up to.

Saturday (3pm unless otherwise specified)

Brentford vs Leicester (12.45pm BBC1)

Leicester have been good value this season even if there has been a wobble in recent weeks. Jamie Vardy looks likely to miss this one with a “bad glute” and with the second leg of their EFL Cup tie looming, you do wonder how many others will be rested. Brentford can be devastating if they get into their stride but Leicester’s counter attack trumps all – even without Vardy.

Burnley vs Norwich

An all Premier League tie! Sean Dyche will be a lot happier about a cup run after taking 6 points in three days to ease any relegation fears. This isn’t Man Utd though, this is Norwich, a team that can and will attack. In all truth I think Farke will take an honourable loss. No shame in losing to a Premier League side away and let’s him focus on the great escape. Burnley can go and play the channels in the 5th Round.

Millwall vs Sheff Utd

Since Gary Rowett took over he has transformed Millwall. They’re right in the playoff mix and it’s a scary time. Chris Wilder meanwhile is winning hearts every week with Sheffield Utd’s style and was unlucky to get nothing from Man City on Tuesday. Both sides have enjoyed cup runs in recent years and I think this might be a replay.

Newcastle vs Oxford

It is ridiculous that Newcastle haven’t been past this stage since 2006. You could say they’ll never get a better chance, but it was only 3 years ago I witnessed Newcastle lose 3-0 at Oxford at this very same stage. This time though with home advantage surely the class of 2006 will be worried? Even without many available forwards, there are many defenders and they have spent most of the season bailing the forwards out. Expect more of the same here – not to mention a Nabil Bentaleb debut.

Southampton vs Tottenham

Another all Premier League clash and one I’m a little surprised hasn’t been picked for TV. The Pochettino derby sees one team in incredible form and another just scratching along keeping themselves in touch with the top 6. A lot will depend on how strong each team is – if Ings plays Southampton have every chance of winning. Mourinho does love a cup though and it might mask their questionable league form.

West Ham vs West Brom

Slaven Bilic heads back to the London Stadium to face his replacement (who has since left and gone back). Not being able to win at West Ham’s new ground probably cost Bilic his job so whilst he’ll probably get a nice reception from his former fans, I think he’ll be free to focus on the small matter of promotion soon enough. Moyes started well but it’s all gone a bit flat, he’ll be hoping to use this as a catalyst for better times.

Hull vs Chelsea (Saturday 5.30pm BT Sport 1)

I feel like this fixture happens every season in at least one of the cups. Hull are safely midtable in the Championship whilst Chelsea probably have a flea in their collective ears after a bad week. It’s the type of game where Pedro excels and Batshuayi makes everybody think he has turned a corner. Hull can play with the freedom to have a go but Chelsea are generally better on the road. Away win.

Sunday

Manchester City vs Fulham (1pm BBC 1)

I hate that this is on TV. What’s the point? It’ll be a comfortable home win for one of the country’s best teams against a side with one eye on automatic promotion. Man City are the holders but is that really a reason to show this match? Home win, enjoy the goals.

Tranmere Rovers vs Manchester Utd (3pm BT Sport 1)

This is a classic cup tie. Tranmere only booked their place in this fixture on Thursday night with a hard-fought win over Watford and the reward could scarcely be bigger. The TV money is one thing but the occasion is quite another. Man Utd are at their most recent lowest ebb and the never-ending speculation about Solskjaer’s future is in full flow. Can Tranmere really pull themselves together so soon after 120 minutes on Thursday night? The pitch is interesting too, though I can’t help but feel running on it for 120 minutes will have done Tranmere legs any favours.

Shrewsbury vs Liverpool (5pm BBC 1)

Another David vs Goliath cup tie, only Goliath has bigger fish to fry so he sends his young charges instead. Seriously though, Klopp played a very inexperienced team against local rivals and alleged Premier League side Everton so what will he play here? Divock Origi plus 10, one imagines. I still think they will have too much for their League 1 opponents.

Monday

Bournemouth vs Arsenal (8pm BT Sport 1)

Hmm. Bournemouth have been in free fall for a while but arrested the slide against Brighton whilst you just cannot predict Arsenal – except defensive hilarity, that’s a regular occurrence. I think this will be a draw, without Aubameyang Arsenal can’t kill games and Bournemouth would probably rather focus on league points.

That’s all for this round, let’s see how many Premier League sides remain when I’m back to preview the 5th Round. Happy cupping everyone!