Luke Chadwick, meet Angel Di Maria
There are a few things that bring Cambridge United and Manchester United together. They’re both called United for a start, plus Sir Alex Ferguson bought a young Dion Dublin from Cambridge in 1992 and then there’s the fact that former Red Devil and Premier League anomaly Luke Chadwick grew-up supporting The U’s and is set to face his former team with whom he collected a league winner’s medal in 2001 for his boyhood club. That might not sound like much, especially considering the fact that Dion Dublin’s United career was so disappointing short, Chadwick’s was so random and the United thing is so silly, but the largest chasm in league positions in the fourth round makes this one of the most talked about fixtures of the weekend. With Louis van Gaal’s team only having played two games outside of the Premier League so far this season, that hefty defeat to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup and their 0-2 defeat of Yeovil in the previous round of this competition, it’s likely that superstar names Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and co. will be enjoying a spot of League Two hospitality at the Abbey Stadium – it’s not like they’re going to be particularly tired. Promoted from the Conference by way of a play-off win last summer, Cambridge currently find themselves in a highly respectable 12th place in English football’s fourth tier and with half an eye on another play-off run and a general satisfaction that league football is all but assured for the 2015/16 season, perhaps the stress-free Richard Money managed side can give their dream team opposition a few things to think about.
Ozil, Walcott, Szczesny, Gibbs, Rosicky and Flamini mean Brighton shouldn’t expect Arsenal’s reserves
Fresh from a somewhat surprising 0-2 defeat of Champions Manchester City on Sunday, Arsenal head to The Amex on Sunday hoping to turn their momentum into a locomotive as they prepare to re-introduce a few star players to their first team. Mesut Ozil has been fit and raring to go for three weeks, but the form of Santi Cazorla and the need for power in the middle has forced Arsene Wenger to look past the German international as a starter or even as an option from the bench, so Championship opposition is likely to prove the perfect opportunity to bring their record signing back into the fold. Ozil isn’t the only superstar waiting for his opportunity in the first team either as Theo Walcott looks set to continue his rehabilitation from that injury suffered against Spurs in the third round of Arsenal’s successful 2014 FA Cup campaign with a start against Chris Hughton’s South Coast team. Rotation will allow for a few relative unknowns in the Arsenal side, with youngsters Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem expected to play a part, but with Wojciech Szczesny expected to return in goal, Kieran Gibbs expected to retake his place at left-back, Calum Chambers to start in the centre of defence, Tomas Rosicky to join the midfield and Mathieu Flamini to replace the in-form Francis Coquelin, Brighton shouldn’t expect a dramatically weakened Gunners XI.
Believe it or not, Manchester City have a point to prove against Middlesbrough
Managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson and stood on the precipice of a whole new era of English football, Manchester City headed to The Riverside Stadium for the final game of the 2007/08 season with the whole world in front of them. That day though, when Middlesbrough were a Premier League team managed by current England Under 21 boss Gareth Southgate, it was the side from the North East who left with the win. That wasn’t the last time the two teams met, but it was the most recent meeting of significance and one that has rung bells with both sets of supporters ever since. On that day an Alfonso Alves (remember him) hat-trick helped Borough to an unfathomable 8-1 defeat of the future Premier League champions, setting them up for what should have been an incredible 2008/09 campaign. One year later Middlesbrough were relegated to The Championship, where they’ve remained ever since, while Manchester City, new owners in tow, have gone from strength to strength winning the Premier League title twice and headed to the Champions League last 16 next month. With that result still holding special stock in the hearts and minds of Borough fans, this FA Cup Fourth Round fixture will be as hard fought as a game between two teams exactly one division apart can be. Manchester City, currently second in the Premier League, will be looking at Aitor Karanka’s side, currently second in The Championship, as the perfect team to play as they attempt to shake off their comprehensive defeat at home to Arsenal last weekend and even with Borough naturally prioritising their promotion charge, we’re expecting a lot from both sides.
Villa look like underdogs – at home, against lower league Bournemouth
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this season’s Aston Villa is not something fans of the club are particularly enamoured with at the moment, but for the relative lack of investment (star players Rob Vlaar, Brad Guzan, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke were all signed at fractions of their current market values), every moment they spend outside of the Premier League’s relegation places could be seen as a blessing for The Villains, although a tough run of upcoming fixtures might put paid to any potential excitement. To begin that run the West Midlands side aren’t thrilled to be welcoming in-form AFC Bournemouth to Villa Park this weekend as the Championship leaders look to replace their FA Cup opponents in the top division for the 2015/16 season. Never having gone beyond the quarter-final stages of the FA Cup in their entire history, AFC Bournemouth’s ascent up the league ladder has been a remarkable one thus far and it’s not finished yet. Eddie Howe’s young charges want to make a statement this weekend, while Villa will be happy to scrape by as infinitely better resourced underdogs, which won’t play well with home fans who might see a potential defeat as the final straw in the Paul Lambert era.
Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City ready for more cup drama at Stamford Bridge
The prospect of Millwall visiting Stamford Bridge was a concerning if invigorating one when the winner of a replay between the South London Championship club and League One Bradford City was confirmed for an away trip to Chelsea earlier this month, and few expected Phil Parkinson’s cup friendly side to go as far as smashing their better equipped rivals 4-0 to make that fixture their own, but that’s exactly what happened. What the subsequent fixture lacks in controversy and police attention, it makes up for in the shear contrast of the Premier League’s top placed side facing a side who found themselves playing in the fourth tier of English football just two years ago. In Phil Parkinson, Bradford City boast a manager who knows how to win big in cup competitions having guided the club to that infamous League Cup final run in 2013/14, defeating Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic along the way, and in James Hanson, Billy Knott and Jon Stead the club have goals to scare what will likely be a weakened Chelsea back-two, and hey, we can dream.