The FA Cup fourth round is in full swing on Saturday 28 January and here are some insights into all 12 matches taking place including the titanic lunchtime kick-off at Anfield where Liverpool take on Manchester United!
Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea
A potential powder keg awaits at Loftus Road which may explain the midday nature of the kick-off. It’s the first time both London sides meet since the race row between Chelsea’s John Terry and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand and it’s likely the focus will surround that rather than the action taking place on the pitch.
New QPR manager Mark Hughes got his first victory since taking charge when his side beat lowly Wigan Athletic last week and have a solid chance at home against stuttering Chelsea. The Blues were held to a goalless draw last week and were unconvincing in a 1-0 victory against Sunderland the week before.
This could turn out to be a bad tempered game and one which may need a replay.
Verdict: Draw @ 4.0 (Sky Bet)
Liverpool vs Manchester United
The second fixture dogged by racist abuse is also set for an early kick off on Saturday. This will be the first time both teams have played eachother since Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for abuse directed at Patric Evra during a 1-1 draw last October.
Liverpool were good value for their 2-2 draw against Manchester City midweek, a result which set up a Carling Cup final clash against Cardiff City (correctly predicted here and here). Kenny Dalglish’s team will not fear United and the FA Cup is a welcome distraction from their poor league form which sees a top four finish increasingly unlikely.
United demonstrated their quality when they beat Arsenal late on at the Emirates last weekend and while Sir Alex Ferguson would prefer this tie not to need a replay, there is a strong chance it will.
Verdict: Draw @ 3.3 (Bet Victor)
Blackpool vs Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday caused an upset in the third round when they defeated Championship high-fliers West Ham 1-0 at Hillsborough but they may find the visit to Blackpool a much tougher prospect.
Blackpool still have the on-form Matt Phillips, who has scored seven goals in his last six games for the Seasiders, including two hat-tricks, after the club rejected a bid from Cardiff City.
Ian Holloway’s team are unbeaten in their last six matches at Bloomfield Road and haven’t tasted defeat in their home turf since Nottingham Forest beat them 2-1 last October. Wednesday have won their last six out of seven league and cup matches on the road, but I feel they will come unstuck against Blackpool.
Verdict: Blackpool @ 1.91 (bet365)
Bolton Wanderers vs Swansea City
Bolton Wanderers are in real danger of relegation from the Premier League this season but proved they will not go down without a fight by beating Liverpool 3-1 last Saturday.
Swansea City are also doing their best to remain in the top flight but their results are as excellent as they are awful. At home, Brendan Rogers’ side are a match for anybody – as proven in their 3-2 victory against Arsenal. But, on the road, they are prone to defeat and have lost seven out of 11 against Premier League opposition this season.
Let’s not pretend Bolton are any great shakes at home either – the victory against Liverpool was only their second of the season. But with Swansea almost incapable of scoring goals away from the Liberty Stadium, the bet has to be Bolton.
Verdict: Bolton Wanderers @ 2.5 (Betfred)
Derby County vs Stoke City
After a bright start to the Championship season, Derby now find themselves in eleventh place but are just two points behind sixth placed Birmingham City. The Rams have won their last five league and cup fixtures at home, including beating West Ham United on New Years Eve and Carling Cup semi finalists Crystal Palace in the third round.
Stoke appear to be stuttering of late. Last weekend they lost 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion (as predicted here) and have won just once in their last six Premier League outings. It could be that Europa League involvement is taking it out of their relatively small squad.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis may want as high a finish as possible in the Premier League as a priority to FA Cup progress and with ground to make up on Liverpool in seventh, a few fringe players may be selected here.
Verdict: Derby County @ 3.5 (Betfred)
Hull City vs Crawley Town
Hull are progressing quietly and confidently under Nick Barmby this season and occupy fifth spot in the Championship table. The Tigers have won five of their last six league and cup fixtures at home, including a confident 3-1 dispatching of Ipswich Town in the third round.
League Two Crawley have been excellent value in the FA Cup this season. They are unbeaten in their last 10 league and cup fixtures on the road since they were thumped 6-0 by Morecambe last September. Steve Evans’ side defeated Championship outfit Bristol City in the last round and will be looking for another scalp here.
But, Hull are a different prospect to the Robins, who have hovered around the lower reaches of the Championship all season. Crawley will certainly not be underestimated but the team from the higher division will progress here.
Verdict: Hull City @ 1.91 (bet365)
Leicester City vs Swindon Town
Swindon Town caused arguably the shock of the third round when they beat Premier League strugglers Wigan Athletic. Just like Hull vs Crawley, this match pits a confident League Two outfit against a Championship side expected to beat them.
A few weeks ago, I would have given Paolo Di Canio’s side a much better chance of turning over City but this is not perhaps the best time to play against the Foxes. Things appear to be clicking into place under manager Nigel Pearson and in their last two matches, Leicester won at Southampton in the league and smashed local rivals Nottingham Forest 4-0 in a FA Cup third round replay.
Just like Crawley at Hull, Leicester will not underestimate the quality Swindon possess but with confidence high at the Walkers Stadium, I expect the Foxes to be in the draw for the fifth round.
Verdict: Leicester City @ 1.57 (Ladbrokes)
Southampton vs Millwall
After an incredible first half of the season, Southampton’s league form has been patchy. A 3-0 away victory against Nottingham Forest was sandwiched between defeats against Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City. Indeed, the Saints have lost two of their last three in front of their home supporters.
Millwall have spent most of the season near the bottom of the Championship and are in mixed form themselves. Their last two results have been positive – a 3-1 away win at Barnsley in the league and a 5-0 thumping of Dagenham & Redbridge in a third round replay but prior to that Kenny Jackett’s side lost four out of six in the Championship. Including a 6-0 mauling at the New Den by Birmingham City.
Neither side are in great recent form but with the Saints winning 11 out of 14 at home in the Championship this season and beating Millwall 1-0 at St Mary’s earlier in the campaign, I will side with Nigel Adkins’ team.
Verdict: Southampton @ 2.6 (Coral)
Sheffield United vs Birmingham City
Sheffield United have made excellent progress this season under Danny Wilson. After winning eight out of their last 10 League One fixtures, the Blades are up to third in the table, level on points with second placed Huddersfield Town. But, two of their last four in the league have ended in defeat – most recently last Saturday when table toppers Charlton Athletic beat them 1-0.
Birmingham have won their last four league and cup matches in a row and are unbeaten in their last eight in all competitions. After labouring through the first half of the season Chris Hughton’s side are climbing the table and are into the play-off positions.
United are solid at home, winning 10 out of 14 at Bramall Lane and losing just twice while Birmingham are shaky on their travels, losing seven out of 13 and winning just three times. This tie may need more than 90 minutes to settle it.
Verdict: Draw @ 3.4 (Sky Bet)
Stevenage vs Notts County
An all-League One fixtures pits play-off chasing Stevenage against mid-table Notts County and with a place in the last 16 at stake, neither side will take this match lightly. Stevenage, now under manager Gary Smith are solid, if not spectacular at home – winning six, drawing four and losing three.
That is better than County who are poor on the road, losing nine out of 14 in the league. Indeed, that is a record matched only by Tranmere Rovers in seventeenth and Rochdale and Chesterfield who prop up the table.
County inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Stevenage when the pair met in League One last September but Smith has cup victory experience – leading Colorado Rapids to MLS Cup glory in 2010 and I’m tipping the home side to exact their revenge.
Verdict: Stevenage @ 2.0 (Boylesports)
West Bromwich Albion vs Norwich City
Norwich City recorded a Premier League victory at the Hawthorns just a fortnight ago and it would not be a shock to see Paul Lambert’s side do the same again in the FA Cup.
Norwich are fresh from holding Chelsea to a goalless draw last weekend – their first clean sheet of the season and are riding high in ninth place in the Premier League. The Canaries are decent enough of their travels – winning three, drawing four and losing four in the league.
The Baggies earned a much needed victory at Stoke which kept some distance between the bottom three and themselves but it is their home form which is a huge concern. Two defeats, two draws and seven defeats does not inspire confidence and I choose Norwich to progress.
Verdict: Norwich City @ 4.0 (Ladbrokes)
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Newcastle United
Championship side Brighton needed extra time and penalties to see off the challenge of Conference promotion contenders Wrexham in the last round. But, strangely, they may have an easier time of it against Premier League side Newcastle United.
Despite leading at half-time against Fulham last weekend, Alan Pardew’s side were thumped 5-2 at Fulham and are unquestionably missing the likes of Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote who are on Africa Cup of Nations duty. While not terrible away from the Sports Direct Arena, the Magpies are vulnerable to defeat.
Brighton are solid enough at home, winning seven out of 13 and five of their last six, including a 3-0 victory against Southampton. Under Gus Poyet the Seagulls play good football and Craig Mackail-Smith is always a danger when fit.
Verdict: Brighton & Hove Albion @ 4.0 (Paddy Power)