The FA Cup fourth round is here as world football’s oldest national competition begins to heat up.
There are some huge ties taking place over the coming days and ahead of the action we’ve looked at five FA Cup talking points.
Five talking points ahead of the FA Cup fourth round:
Can holders Manchester City end wretched record at Spurs?
Manchester City’s trip to Tottenham is the headline tie from the FA Cup’s fourth round, as the holders travel to face a North London nemesis.
Pep Guardiola’s team have been the dominant force in English football in recent seasons, but Spurs have had the treble-winner’s number when it comes to clashes in the capital.
🎙️ “We’re trying to build and progress and be the team we want to be. The greatest test is when you play against the best.”
Ange looks ahead to tomorrow’s @EmiratesFACup clash against Manchester City ⤵️
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 25, 2024
Since moving into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs have won all five home meetings with the Citizens. City, meanwhile, have failed to score a goal in those games. That’s 450 minutes of football at Spurs without scoring, a staggering statistic given City’s record in all competitions of late.
Whoever emerges from the fourth round’s glamour tie will harbour realistic ambitions of a route to Wembley.
Barkley makes Everton return
Everton will welcome back a former favourite when Ross Barkley and Luton Town visit Goodison Park in the FA Cup this weekend.
Barkley came through the academy system at Everton and was viewed as the club’s most exciting product since Wayne Rooney, though the midfielder’s career has failed to reach the heights once expected.
The boyhood blue’s exit for Chelsea, in 2018, left many Evertonians with a bitter taste, though there’s unlikely to be an exaggerated barrage of abuse for the midfielder. Instead, with plenty of water having since passed under the bridge, there might be some pleased to see the local lad’s renaissance this season.
A complete midfield performance 👏
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 12, 2024
Barkley’s arrival at Luton on a free transfer in the summer was viewed as a coup and gamble simultaneously, but he has proven to be an inspired signing for a Hatters team looking to consolidate at the top level. Such has been his form, there has been tentative talk of an England recall, a staggering turnaround for the 30-year-old whose best years seemed behind him just a matter of months ago.
West Brom eye Black Country upset
After a long-awaited Tyne-Wear Derby in the third round, it’s the return of the Black Country rivalry as West Bromwich Albion host Wolves on Sunday.
The Midlands neighbours will meet in front of fans for the first time in over a decade, with their most recent encounters in 2021 having been staged behind closed doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Second-tier West Brom are pushing for promotion back into the Premier League and enter the clash in fine form, having won five of their last seven games. The Baggies will believe in an upset at The Hawthorns, though Wolves are improving under Gary O’Neil and have lost once in seven Premier League games.
“You don’t need to watch a full game to understand how special this game is and the atmosphere that will be created.” 🗣@CarlosCorberan sat down with 𝗪𝗕𝗔 𝗧𝗩 to discuss our upcoming Black Country derby clash in the @EmiratesFACup. pic.twitter.com/4HTvQTiNqv
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) January 25, 2024
However, Wolves have not won at The Hawthorns since 1996, and have won only one of the last 10 encounters between the teams dating back to 2007.
With bragging rights and a place in the fifth round at stake, this is not one to miss.
Tough task for Maidstone to continue run
Maidstone United are the lowest-ranked team in the FA Cup fourth round, having become the first National League South team to reach this stage since 2007/08.
Maidstone had already made history after reaching the third round for the first time since reforming in the early nineties and followed a win over Barrow with an upset of third-tier Stevenage.
Sam Corne’s penalty was the difference against Stevenage, though George Elokobi’s side face a sizeable step up in task this weekend. The Stones travel to face Championship high-flyers Ipswich, who have enjoyed an extraordinary return to the second tier this season.
Kieran McKenna’s team sit second in their push for back-to-back promotions and a place in the Premier League for the first time since 2001/02. Having lost just once at home in the league all season, the odds are against Maidstone at Portman Road.
Newport prepares for ‘biggest game in history’
Newport County manager Graham Coughlan has called his side’s fourth-round tie with Manchester United the ‘biggest game’ in the club’s history.
The South Wales side have faced Manchester City and Tottenham in cup competition in recent campaigns, but Coughlan – a Manchester United fan – believes the visit of the 12-time winners is the biggest fixture Newport have participated in.
“It’ll be a hell of an occasion,” Coughlan told BBC Sport Wales ahead of the first-ever meeting between the clubs.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) January 23, 2024
“It’s a fourth-round tie against Manchester United, for me the biggest club in this country, in Europe and in the world. I know some people would lean towards the fifth-round game against Manchester City (2019), but I’d say Manchester United all day long.”
Newport beat non-league Eastleigh to reach this stage and now take on the 20-time record English champions at Rodney Parade. For a side that has struggled financially of late, the prize money, sold-out stadium and television coverage are set to earn Newport a windfall of around £400,000.
It’s a money-spinning David vs Goliath clash, the sort the FA Cup is famous for.
They couldn’t, could they?