The fourth round of the FA Cup is played this weekend, and typically this is the stage where shock results and upsets do occur.
What would it mean for four of the Premier League’s top six if they were to lose….would it be curtains for Louis Van Gaal?
Arsenal v Burnley
How seriously will Arsene Wenger take this competition? That is the question that will determine how well the Gunners perform in this match. Because be under no illusions: Burnley have the quality to cause an upset here.
Against Sunderland in the third round Wenger deployed a kind of ‘half and half’ team, with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs all getting rare starts alongside more established names like Petr Cech, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. There was a also a berth in the starting eleven for young Alex Iwobi.
Burnley have won four of their last five matches – scoring 16 goals in the process, although they are battling for automatic promotion and so may rest key personnel for the battle ahead. If he starts, the pace and trickery of Andre Gray – who just four seasons ago was playing non-league football – could trouble the Gunners.
Aston Villa v Man City
We all know of the contrasting fortunes of these two sides in the Premier League, and so how will the FA Cup play its part in their immediate futures?
It’s quite possible that of the four fixtures listed, this could be the one with the biggest chance of an upset. Aston Villa got to the final of this competition last season despite their poor league form, and they have shown a significant improvement of late.
With the news that Kevin De Bruyne will be out for up to ten weeks through injury, it is unlikely that Manuel Pellegrini will want to risk some of his other stars – the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure – with the league and Champions League likely to take precedence.
Keep your eyes peeled for a shock result here then.
Colchester v Spurs
Bottom of League One having conceded a whopping 65 goals in 28 games, and with eight defeats in their last ten outings, there is little to promote the cause of Colchester here.
Spurs needed a replay to see off Premier League leaders Leicester in the third round, but they put out a strong starting eleven that day and that shows the respect that manager Mauricio Pochettino is giving this competition.
It’s hard to see anything other than a Spurs win here.
Man Utd v Derby
Would winning the FA Cup save United’s season? That is the question that may determine Louis Van Gaal’s team selection here. Does he rest the likes of Wayne Rooney and David De Gea. Like Arsenal, they face a Championship opponent that is riding high in the division despite poor form of late. No mishaps will be accepted here.
The Dutchman came out fighting in his press conference, saying that reports of him offering to resign from his post were ‘awful and horrible’.
“You make your stories and people believe it,” he continued. “I am concerned they are believing it.
“It is the third time I am sacked and I am still sitting here.”
League distractions aside, the players will be able to deliver performances expected of them without the need for three points. Expect Van Gaal’s side to progress….but they might need a replay.