Squad depth is to be a decisive factor when the world’s oldest knock out club competition the English FA Cup fourth round action takes place over the next five days. Several Premier League clubs must juggle resources in readiness for a compressed fixture list that entails cup action as well as EPL games within a space of a few days.
London club Chelsea host Aston Villa on Friday night exactly 72 hours after they obliterated Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough 6-1 in the Carabao Cup semifinal second leg to book a final slot against Liverpool. The game on February 25 will be a repeat of the 2021/22 final which was won on penalties by Jurgen Klopp’s Kop. Having lost his previous appearance in the Carabao Cup final to Chelsea in 2015 as Tottenham Hotspur manager, Pochettino is desperate to end his trophy blank in England.
Unai Emery’s transformed Aston Villa were 1-0 winners at Stamford Bridge on their last visit and will provide a fascinating contest for a Chelsea side finding their rhythm after putting together a run of five victories in six competitive outings.
Liverpool qualified 3-2 for the final on aggregate after drawing their semifinal return leg with Fulham 1-1 on Wednesday. They must now dust themselves up in preparation for Sunday’s FA Cup duel with Championship side Norwich City. Unlike Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino who must field strong line ups against both Aston Villa and Liverpool in the Premier League on Wednesday, Klopp can rest a few first team players in the match up with the Canaries without losing quality.
The tie of the round also takes place on Friday night with Tottenham Hotspur hosting reigning cup holders Manchester City. Spurs boss Ange Postecoglu is still without influential trio Son Heung Min (South Korea), Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal) and Yves Bissouma (Mali), all of whom are representing their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations and Asia Cup but Micky van de Ven has recovered from the injury that kept him out for two months
Kevin de Bruyne could captain Manchester City after he proved his match sharpness in the Cityzens’ 3-2 victory at Newcastle United with a goal and an assist but top Erling Braut Haaland may be only good enough to start on the bench. January transfer Timo Werner’s pace dictates he is to be deployed by Postecoglu as the secret chip in an attempt to beat a City high line missing the services of injured pair John Stones and Manuel Akanji.
There are three other all Premier League clashes. Fulham manager Marco Silva’s troops must pick themselves up for the visit of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United 72 hours after they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup, Sean Dyce’s Everton will be hoping to maintain their strong cup tradition when they entertain Luton Town and Chris Wilder’s struggling Sheffield United aim to to upset Roberto de Zerbi’s Brighton and Hove Albion.
Bournemouth v Swansea City
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest,
Sheffield Wednesday v Coventry City,
Chelsea v Aston Villa,
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Ipswich Town v Maidstone,
Leicester City v Birmingham City,
Everton v Luton Town,
Sheffield United v Brighton,
Leeds Utd v Plymouth,
Fulham v Newcastle United
West Bromwich Albion v Wolves,
Watford v Southampton,
Liverpool v Norwich City,
Newport v Manchester United
Blackburn Rovers v Wrexham