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FA Cup - Fourth round highlights

Friday 27th January 2017
The fourth round of this historic cup competition is a mere few days away, and this round is full of exceptional stand out games – plenty of top teams still in action, local derbies galore and of course the David versus Goliath games.

It's certainly not the business end of the cup yet, after all, many of the thirty-two sides are happy to still be involved in the fourth round – never mind thinking they will go to Wembley. Although the fourth round does serve as a gateway to the business end and further profits to be made. Especially important to the smaller clubs.

The Battle of the East Midlands – Derby County vs. Leicester City

Derby County will come into this game with good spirits, fresh off a 3-2 win against higher-placed Reading – the Rams want to join their regional counterparts in the Premier League. Currently occupying seventh place, they are two points off the play-off places.  To earn this fifth round tie, they had to beat another Premier League side – West Bromwich Albion. Despite going behind, they came back and won 2-1 at the Hawthorns.

The Champions of English football, Leicester City, don't terribly resemble that moniker. Their woes have seen their league status free fall. Instead of defending the title, they find themselves in fifteenth place. That said, they have actually excelled outside of the league this year. They performed above all expectations in the Champions League and won the FA cup third round against Everton.
Highlights from Leicester's win against Everton.

This specific East Midlands fixture has been contested in over three years, the last time being when the Foxes ran riot 4-1 in the Championship whilst on route to the Premier League. Whilst the contemporary forms swing in favour of Derby, the contemporary fixture goes the other way. Leicester have won eight of the last nine games.

Southampton vs. Arsenal

Arsenal is currently second in the league. Whilst they can do all the right things themselves; they are some eight points off Chelsea. Their success in terms of the title isn't really in their hands. The importance of the cup competitions, therefore, rises for Arsenal, given the league title may be an impossible objective for everyone but Chelsea.

An FA Cup win this season with this squad would still below target, but may ease the anguish felt by many fans. The Gunners are currently on a six-game unbeaten streak; most recently defeating Burnley 2-1 with a last-gasp win as Alexis slotted home a penalty kick. In the last round, the Gunners came from behind to win at Deepdale as Ramsey and Giroud secured the goals in a 2-1 win.

Southampton will be buoyed by a stellar performance at the weekend, defeating Leicester 3-0 at home. The Saints recent good form has seen them climb up to table to as high as eleventh. The team have been particularly fruitful in cup competitions so far, having reached the semi-final of the League Cup against Liverpool.

Arsenal fans have every right to be anxious about this tie, Southampton has proved their new bogey team. They've gone out to them in the League Cup already this season, and don't enjoy visiting Saint Marys at all. The 4-0 drubbing on Boxing Day 2015 is still a sore subject for most Gooners. It'll be a well-contested game, Wenger may see the FA cup as another opportunity to bring silverware to the club and go hell for leather for it. Southampton will try to replicate their successes against the North London and as a result advance in another cup competition.
Southampton has already knocked Arsenal out of a cup competition this year.

Two Lancashire Derbies –Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic & Blackburn Rovers vs. Blackpool.

It wasn't long ago that all four of these teams were in the Premier League. Whilst they are a shadow of their former selves, Manchester United are the only club still standing the in top-flight – but did win the competition last season.

Mourinho successfully saw off former United legend Jaap Stam and his Reading side, and now face another Championship side in the form of Wigan Athletic. The Berkshire club arguably was a sterner looking outfit; sitting in the playoff places – whilst the Latics are merely hovering over the relegation zone by the virtue of goal difference. The fourth round altogether should be an easier affair for the champions.

Since that infamous season in the Premier League, Blackpool has dwindled down to League 2. An unfortunate turn of events for any club to free fall through the league system. Blackburn now occupies the championship; having been relegated back in 2012. Since then the Rovers haven't troubled the promotion picture having only finished has high as eighth.

Blackburn and Blackpool have contested many games since their first meeting back in 1882, (which was an exceptional 11-1 win for Blackburn). But haven't met since 2015 due to the teams being in separate leagues; that meeting was a forgettable 1-1. Let us hope this one is a nod to the history books like the first encounter between these sides.

Sutton United vs. Leeds United

The very fact that Sutton United are still in the cup at this point is a highlight in itself. The side last year were playing in the sixth tier of English football; although are climbing up the ranks  - earning promotion by winning the league and now in the fourth round. They overcame League 1 side, AFC Wimbledon away from home in the third-round replay to be here in the fourth. Their reward for doing so, a home tie with Leeds United.

The Mighty Whites, however, may not take this tie as serious as their counterparts. Garry Monk has got Leeds United in the playoff places; and will want to guide the West Yorkshire club to the Premier League as a priority. However, for a team as big as Leeds and their current form – this game could be seen as an open invitation to the fifth round. Monk would need to consider his selection, though, after extensive switching they only narrowly saw off Cambridge United.
Footage from the two sides match (and only to date), in 1970 where Leeds won 6-0 away from home.

Honourable Mentions

Chelsea host fellow Londoners in Brentford, in what is a lesser contested London derby. The lowest ranked side in the cup are Lincoln City and host an in-form Brighton side who may opt to concentrate on their league form. Lincoln have already seen off a Championship so will be buoyed by the prospect of beating another.

Adebayo Akinfenwa, or the beast as he's affectionately known lines up for the Wycombe Wanderers as they head towards White Hart Lane. Fresh off a win against Mansfield in the League Trophy and fifth in the fourth tier, Wycombe will come into the game with no fear. Led by Gareth Ainsworth, the club is making strides and becoming successful at their current level. The hosts, Tottenham may have to realise their dreams of the title considering Chelsea's lead at the top. Therefore any form of silverware may seem like a success at this point.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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