Thursday, 24 January 2013

FA Cup Fourth Round: Ones to watch

Having witnessed a number of shocks in the third round, the FA Cup makes it's appearance again this weekend. The last round saw non-league sides Luton Town and Macclesfield fly the flag with shock victories over Wolves and Cardiff respectively. The last round also saw just the one Premier League side knocked out by lower league opposition. Newcastle United fell to Championship side Brighton at the AMEX which saw them continue their poor form this season.

#1 Brentford v Chelsea
After being knocked out of the Capital One Cup semi finals this week, Chelsea will want a similar run in the FA Cup. The Premier League side are the current holders of the competition having beaten Liverpool in the final last season. Rafa Benitez has had a mixed spell as interim manager with defeats at home to Swansea in the cup, and to QPR in the league. Benitez will be expected to field a strong team that will be without Eden Hazard who got himself stupidly sent off against Swansea this week. The form of Fernando Torres continues with the striker failing to score since the 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa in December. They come up against League One side Brentford who currently sit third in the table. The West London side have only lost once in the league since mid October, and have striker Clayton Donaldson to thank with the big man scoring 19 goals in all competitions for them this season. The former Crewe forward scored the winning goal in Brentford's third round replay against Southend.
Prediction: Brentford 1-4 Chelsea
#2 Norwich City v Luton Town
Non-league side Luton Town disposed of Championship side Wolves in the last round, resulting in the Midland's boss then being sacked. The current Conference side are currently battling for promotion from the top tier of non-league football having missed out narrowly in the play offs last season. Paul Buckle's men have a number of games in hand over their play off rivals and will certainly take pleasure in travelling to Premier League side Norwich City this weekend. The Canaries comfortably overcame Peterborough United in the last round beating the Championship side 3-0 at London Road. Chris Hughton's men have since been struggling in the league having not produced a win since 15th Dec where they beat Wigan Athletic 2-1 at home. Goals have been a problem this season, with Robert Snodgrass their top scorer with five goals. Norwich have only reached the fifth round once in the last four seasons, where they lost to Leicester City last season. 
Prediction: Norwich City 3-0 Luton Town
#3 Oldham Athletic v Liverpool
These two sides met in the competition last year in the third round, where Liverpool came out comfortable 5-1 winners. The Premier League side went on to the final last year ending up as runners up to Chelsea. Oldham currently sit 19th in League One fighting a relegation battle so a big FA Cup game has come as a useful distraction for the club and the fans. Striker Jose Baxter will certainly be looking forward to the game as a former Everton player and with 11 goals to his name this season, the forward will fancy himself to get on the scoresheet. Brendan Rogers' Liverpool will once again look for another cup run having won the competition seven times. Rogers' team currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League and have certainly improved over the season. New January signing Daniel Sturridge could not have asked for a better start to his Liverpool career having netted in each of is three appearances for the reds. The former Chelsea man has struck up an excellent partnership with Luis Suarez with the Uruguayan man who has 20 goals to his name this season. 
Prediction: Oldham Athetic 0-2 Liverpool
#4 Brighton v Arsenal
Brighton reached this stage last season beating Newcastle United at home. The Championship side went on to the fifth round where they were beaten by Liverpool. Gus Poyet's men beat Newcastle again this year in the last round where they secured a home tie against Premier League giants Arsenal. The Championship side are again enjoying another season in the second tier of English football as they fight for a play off place. Striker Craig Mackail Smith is once again proving what a top player he is at this level with 11 goals this season to his name. Arsenal will not find it easy getting to the fifth round. Despite a 5-1 thumping of West Ham in the week, Arsene Wenger's side have been very inconsistent this season. They needed a replay to get past Swansea in the last round and had Jack Wilshere to thank for his late winner. The midfielder has been a much needed return for the Gunners as they aim to secure a Champions League place in the league. 
Prediction Brighton 1-2 Arsenal
#5 Macclesfield Town v Wigan Athletic
Having knocked out Cardiff City in the last round, non-league side Macclesfield Town will be looking for a similar result, this time against Premier League opposition. Two goals in the space of three minutes saw the shock of the round as high flying Cardiff City were dumped out of the cup. Striker Matthew Barnes-Homer is one to watch with the striker having scored 20 goals this season. The Conference side sit ninth in the league as they aim to get back into the football league. They come up against Wigan Athletic who needed a replay to get passed Bournemouth in the third round. Roberto Martinez's side will hope to avoid another cup upset as they were beaten by League One side Swindon in last year's third round. Wigan are again fighting another relegation battle in the Premier League, and a cup run for the Lancashire side would do no harm at all. Watch out for this game as another cup upset  is more than possible in this fixture.
 Prediction: Macclesfield 1-0 Wigan Athletic

Other fourth round ties:
Millwall v Aston Villa (Prediction: 1-1)
Stoke v Man City (Prediction: 1-2)
Bolton v Everton (Prediction: 1-2)
Derby v Blackburn Rovers (Prediction: 2-2)
Huddersfield v Leicester City (Prediction: 0-2)
Hull v Barnsley (Prediction: 0-1)
Middlesbrough v Aldershot (Prediction: 3-0)
QPR v MK Dons (Prediction: 2-0)
Reading v Sheff Utd (Prediction: 2-1)
Man Utd v Fulham (Prediction: 3-0)
Leeds Utd v Tottenham (Prediction: 1-2)

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