Dan Burke·27 January 2023
Dan Burke·27 January 2023
League action makes way for the FA Cup this weekend, and there is plenty of intrigue to be found in the fourth round.
It’s time for some predictions.
15 February, mark your calendar.
That’s the date when Manchester City finally meet Arsenal for the first time in the Premier League this season, and the league leaders will face the ultimate test of their title credentials against the reigning champions.
But before then, we get a dress rehearsal when the two sides meet in the FA Cup on Friday night, and it will be interesting to see how the two managers approach the game.
No club has won the FA Cup more times than Arsenal, but with the Premier League title such a realistic possibility for this season, Mikel Arteta could be forgiven if he uses this cup tie as an opportunity to give his key players a well earned rest.
Whereas the cup is looking like it could be City’s most realistic chance of domestic silverware as things stand, and Pep Guardiola might see it as a chance to send out a message that his team are still well up for a fight.
📊 Fun fact: Arsenal have won their last four FA Cup games against City and they’ve reached the final every time they’ve eliminated the Citizens.
🔮 Our prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal
What with their Hollywood takeover by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny, non-league Wrexham have been one of the feel-good stories of British football in recent years.
I think of all the UK terms that I’ve learned over the last few years my absolute favorite is “Squeaky Bum Time”
And a beautiful new chapter of that story was written when they eliminated Coventry City from the cup with an incredible 4-3 victory in the third round.
Can the Robins make their fans and owners proud by taking another big scalp in the fourth round?
They’re likely to face a tougher test this time around in the form of a Sheffield United side who sit second in the Championship and look a good bet for promotion back to the Premier League.
But the National League leaders will be hoping home advantage can give them an edge, and the Racecourse Ground is sure to be bouncing come Sunday evening.
📊 Fun fact: Wrexham are looking to reach the fifth round for the first time since 1996/97, when they got to the quarter-finals.
🔮 Our prediction: Wrexham 3-2 Sheffield United
Last weekend’s last-minute defeat at Arsenal appeared to put an end to Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes, but there is still plenty for the Old Trafford faithful to look forward to.
Champions League qualification looks a strong possibility, there’s a mouth-watering Europa League tie with Barcelona coming next month, and also the small matter of the domestic cups.
Erik ten Hag’s side have a foot in the EFL Cup final after beating Nottingham Forest in midweek, and this weekend they have a great chance to book their spot in the FA Cup fifth round when they host Reading.
It will be a return to Old Trafford for former United midfield guvnor Paul Ince, whose Royals side knocked Watford out in the last round but have been struggling for form in the Championship this term and were beaten 4-0 at Stoke last weekend.
📊 Fun fact: Reading have won just one of their 22 matches against United in all competitions and have lost their last six in a row.
🔮 Our prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Reading
It has been a strange season for Liverpool in which their mounting injury list, inability to strengthen their midfield and lamentable Premier League form have all been sources of great frustration.
The FA Cup has at least given Reds fans something to smile about, with a Harvey Elliott stunner and a backs-to-the-wall performance getting them through their replay with Wolves in the last round (not to mention the huge slice of refereeing luck which kept them in the competition in the first place).
But those smiles could turn to frowns this weekend when they travel to face a Brighton side who thumped them 3-0 in the Premier League a couple of weeks ago.
Jürgen Klopp described that defeat at the Amex as one of the worst of his managerial career, and it will be interesting to see whether revenge or damage limitation is on the German’s mind heading into Sunday’s reunion.
Brighton, meanwhile, won 5-1 at Middlesbrough in the last round and with them already pushing for a top six finish in the Premier League, manager Roberto De Zerbi will be urging his players to dream of a cup run this season as well.
The Seagulls have a team capable of matching anyone in the country on their day, and this should be another very hard-fought contest.
📊 Fun fact: Brighton have scored three goals in both of their meetings with Liverpool this season, having done so in just two of their first 35 against the Reds in all competitions.
🔮 Our prediction: Brighton 2-2 Liverpool