Although last weekend saw only two Premiership clubs knocked out of the FA Cup, the third round stage has already produced some upsets, with a round of replays providing the potential for more. The biggest shocks were at Macclesfield and Luton, where the two non-league home teams knocked out Cardiff and Wolves respectively, the latter of whom subsequently sacked their manager, Ståle Solbakken. However, there was no fairy tale for Mansfield – who lost 2-1 to Liverpool, albeit somewhat controversially, as Luis Suarez had clearly handled the ball before scoring the visitor’s second goal – nor for Hastings United of the Isthmian Premier Division, who were beaten 3-1 by Middlesbrough.
The biggest top flight casualty was Newcastle, who produced a tepid display in their 2-0 defeat away to Brighton of the Championship, while the other Premiership side to have already exited – Southampton – were beaten by Chelsea, 5-1. All of the other three encounters between teams currently at the top of the English league pyramid ended in draws: Manchester United forced a replay against West Ham thanks to Robin Van Persie’s stoppage time equaliser; Arsenal scored twice in two minutes to take the lead after they had been trailing in their game at Swansea, but the hosts forced the tie back to the Emirates with their own late strike; and Kieron Dyer found the net with virtually the last kick of the match to even things up for QPR against West Brom. Five Premiership clubs were forced into another fixture by lower league opposition: Blackpool earned a 1-1 draw at Fulham; Sunderland had to battle back from 2-0 down away at Bolton to take the tie back to the north-east; Crystal Palace and Stoke ended goalless; and Wigan came from behind to remain in the competition as their home match against Bournemouth finished 1-1. By contrast, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Everton, Reading, Manchester City or Norwich, had little trouble in all advanced to the fourth round – which will be contested over the final weekend of January.
There was also League Cup action in midweek and the first legs of the two semi-finals both produced unexpected outcomes. League Two’s Bradford, who had knocked out Arsenal on penalties in the quarter-finals, are half-way to claiming another Premiership scalp as they defeated Aston Villa 3-1 at Valley Parade; while Swansea were dominated by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but the Welsh side came away with a 2-0 win and now have one foot in the final. This weekend sees the return of Premiership action and on Saturday, Harry Redknapp will have the opportunity to beat the club that sacked him, as Queens Park Rangers host Tottenham – a fixture that has been moved from its original date of Monday, January 14th as QPR have their cup replay against West Brom next Tuesday. That same day, the two sides just above the relegation zone – Aston Villa and Southampton – meet at Villa Park; Swansea travel to Everton; Stoke will have their unbeaten home record tested by Chelsea; Sunderland host West Ham; Fulham, who have won just two of their last thirteen league matches, entertain third-bottom Wigan; and West Brom have an away trip to Reading.
The biggest fixtures of the weekend come on Sunday, as Arsenal host the champions, Manchester City, who have returned nearly a third of their ticket allocation, as many supporters were unwilling to pay the (ridiculous) sum of £62 to watch their team play at the Emirates, where they lost 1-0 last season; and old rivals Manchester United and Liverpool square off in the lunchtime kick off at Old Trafford. Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that his new team can continue their push up the Premiership, as they have won five of their last seven in the league, while the Red Devils will be looking to at least maintain their seven point advantage over City at the top of the table.
Last time, 8-12; Season, 90-107
QPR vs Tottenham – Home win
Aston Villa vs Southampton – Draw
Everton vs Swansea – Draw
Fulham vs Wigan – Home win
Norwich vs Newcastle – Home win
Reading vs West Brom – Away win
Stoke vs Chelsea – Draw
Sunderland vs West Ham – Home win
Manchester United vs Liverpool – Home win
Arsenal vs Manchester City – Draw