While there aren’t any jaw-dropping ties in the fourth round of the FA Cup, there are definitely a few ties worth watching. However, we don’t know who we’ll be watching in many of the ties, as there are still 12 places yet to be decided by replays that will take place over the next two days.
The Premier League participation in the competition might be slashed in half by the end of next Wednesday. If you’re Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, or Wigan, you’re sitting pretty right now, as their passage was sealed with a victory at the first time of asking.
Six Premier League sides went out as quickly as they came in, as Bolton, Blackburn, Everton, and Birmingham all falling to lower-league sides, while Sunderland and Aston Villa lost to fellow top-flight foes. The replays could see as many as four more sides knocked out, with Premier League sides facing each other in two of the replays, and four others fighting for their cup lives against lower-leaguers.
There will be, at most, three ties between top-flight clubs, after four such matchups in the third round: Manchester United will host the winner of the Tottenham-Reading replay, with Arsenal hosting the winner of the Stoke City-Newcastle replay. In the only one of the potential trio that’s already confirmed on both sides, Steve Bruce will hope the JJB is the place where the cup-holders crash out, as Wigan will take on Chelsea.
Stoke gave Newcastle all they had and more at the Britannia Stadium, but try as they might, they weren’t able to find the back of the net even once, which would have been enough for a victory and a trip to the fourth round. But, if there’s ever a time for the managerless Magpies to be ripe for the pickings at St. James Park, it’s right now. A win for Stoke would not only book them a dream tie at the Emirates, but also help prove their worth as top-flight material, as they’re riding high in the Championship right now, in 4th place and currently riding a 12-match unbeaten run (11 league, one cup).
Two sides who knocked out top-flight clubs in the third round will tangle, as Oldham (1-0 winners at Everton) will host Huddersfield, who beat Birmingham 2-1.
Two of the 16 ties are still completely in the air. In one, Swindon or Barnet will host Fulham or Bristol Rovers, as the latter clubs in each matchup will host replays on Tuesday.
In the other, the winner of the Liverpool-Luton clash will host the winner of the Havant & Waterlooville-Swansea replay.
There are a lot of potential storylines in that one, as cash-strapped Luton will benefit from a tie at Anfield, where a giant-killing could give them further opportunity to aid their money woes, as a win could very well book the Hatters a tie against the only non-league side left in the competition. For the Conference South side, an upset over the League One front-runners could mean a tie at Anfield, if Liverpool can get past Luton, whose fans might need reminding that beer is for the mouth, not for throwing on Jamie Carragher.
At least seven non-Premiership sides will make it into the fifth round, and if Bristol Rovers, Luton, or Sheffield Wednesday (vs. Derby), the number of guarantees will increase, and that’s not taking into consideration the upsets that may occur in the next round. Last year, six non-Premiership sides made it the round of 16, with Championship side Plymouth advancing all the way to the quarterfinals before being falling 1-0 to Watford.
Which of the fourth round ties looks to be the most entertaining? I’ll take United and Tottenham, as the back lines should be made to work quite a bit on both ends.
Which tie will you be watching out for come the 26th and 27th? There are 16 to choose from, so you’ve got plenty to pick from. And if you’re picky, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
Check out the full fourth-round draw below, along with the list of Tuesday and Wednesday’s replays.
FA Cup Fourth-Round Draw
Friday, 25 January
Southend v Barnley
Saturday, 26 January
Mansfield v Middlesbrough
Arsenal v Newcastle
Barnet v Bristol Rovers
Coventry v Millwall
Derby v Preston
Liverpool v Havant and Waterlooville
Oldham v Huddersfield
Peterborough v West Brom
Portsmouth v Plymouth
Southampton v Bury
Watford v Wolves
Wigan v Chelsea
Sunday, 27 January
Hereford v Cardiff
Manchester United v Tottenham
Sheffield United v Manchester City