By Brian Beard | 7th JAN 2020
Watford or Tranmere Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers or Manchester United
So many permutations in this one but Watford cannot take Rovers lightly after their superb comeback from 3-0 down to earn an unlikely replay of their 3rd Round tie. Make no mistake Prenton Park will be buzzing and as always with FA Cup ties it will depend on mind-set on the night. Tranmere are capable of an upset but the wind off the Mersey will have to be in their favour.
As for the opposition, well, gone are the days when Old Trafford was a fortress and Wolves fear no team, in any league or competition. Again mindset will be the order of the day and while you can almost guarantee Wolves will have the correct approach the same cannot be said for the inconsistent United.
My prediction is a 4th Round tie, Watford v Wolves. Now, wouldn`t that be something after the Molineux outfit capitulated in their semi-final after leading 2-0 with 11 minutes to go.
Hull City v Chelsea
Not quite yer classic cup tie but another chance for the young Chelsea team to continue their football education against a mid-table but very experienced Hull outfit that is treading water in the Championship. I expect Chelsea to progress but it may well be via the odd-goal.
Southampton v Middlesbrough or Tottenham Hotspur
I expect Southampton host a MINUS Harry Kane Spurs for a place in Round 5. Had Kane been fit it would be a story of two strikers but without the England captain, although they still have decent firepower it will require Son and Moura and the reborn Alli to step up. The `other` striker, and also one on which his team relies is Danny Ings perhaps the most underrated striker in the top flight. Ings is one of the very few natural predators when it comes to scoring goals and he proves that week in, week out.
I go for Southampton to beat Spurs
Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday
This is quite an even game, on paper, and on paper Wednesday would be the slightest of favourites but I have a hunch that QPR will win. Only two sides in the Championship have a better defensive record than Wednesday but only table toppers West Brom have scored more goals than QPR. Unfortunately Rangers ship goals as they score them, for fun. So this one could finish 4-3 0r 5-4 but I think QPR will shade it.
AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal
Poor Eddie Howe who many thought might have been worth a punt as Arsenal manager now faces a resurgent Gunners side who will see the FA Cup as a decent bet for a trophy. The Cherries` precarious position in the Premier League could well influence Howe`s team selection and he could make the obvious and understandable decision to rest key players. Arsenal on the other hand have players chomping at the bit to impress Arteta, young and not so young so I go for Arsenal to progress and leave Bournemouth, using that age-old adage, to concentrate on the league.
Arsenal for Round 5
Northampton Town v Derby County
This has all the makings of a cup upset. Northampton are toddling along quite nicely in League 2 on the tailcoats of the leading clubs while inconsistent Derby are struggling to match last season`s efforts under Frank Lampard. Yes, they have been given some momentum by Wayne Rooney but he can`t carry the team. I think this will be a very tight encounter and may be a 1-0 result. It should be Derby.
Derby to win, just.
Brentford v Leicester City
Leicester City will not be relishing this one bit while Championship high-fliers Brentford can`t wait to get at City who are pushing to finish behind Liverpool in the Premier League. This promises to be a blood and guts encounter laced with the quality football both sides are capable of. It should be close, possibly even a replay, but I expect Leicester to be the side in Round 5
Millwall v Sheffield United
What a cup-tie this promises to be. Millwall, rejuvenated under Gary Rowett, have climbed up the Championship while the entire football world is chuffed at how well United have done in the Premier League. I expect Millwall will be a severe test for the Blades and should score but I don`t think that will be quite enough. I think that Chris Wilder will see his side into Round 5
Reading or Blackpool v Cardiff City or Carlisle United
Another tie with myriad permutations but, assuming Reading meet Cardiff City I will go for the Welsh outfit because they have a more experienced team. They also have a very potent strike force in Junior Hoilett, Gary Madine and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and, apart from their recent drubbing at QPR, have proved a difficult side to beat under Neil Harris.
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion
This could be a Premier League fixture next season, if Albion maintain their impressive form in the Championship but only if the Hammers find a bit more self-belief under David Moyes. Albion have only lost two games all season while West Ham are the epitome of inconsistency and no side really fears playing at the London Stadium. The board and the Hammers` fans are constantly looking over their shoulders at the very small gap between them and the relegation trapdoor. A cup run would be nice but not at the cost of being FA Cup holders, in the Championship. Albion should have more desire for this one and I go for them to best West Ham.
Burnley v Norwich City
Two Premier League strugglers who could both do with the lift of a good win here. Norwich are the more flair side while Burnley are the pragmatic opposite. Both sides have good forward players and both can defend like amateurs so it may come down to who can score the most on the day. Simplistic, yes, and if I have to call it I go for City, just.
Bristol Rovers or Coventry City v Birmingham City
If Coventry edge out Bristol Rovers we could see the curious situation of Birmingham being the away side ON THEIR OWN PITCH as Coventry are current guests at St Andrews. I think Coventry will get past Rovers and if the do they are just the kind of `front-foot` side that Birmingham struggle to cope with and they have Matt Godden.
Godden is one of that rare breed of strikers who eats, breathes and lives scoring goals. Still only 28 and a journeyman career behind him he has an impressive score rate, and hunger, of 132 career goals in 321 appearances.
Coventry to beat Birmingham, if they get past Bristol Rovers
Manchester City v Fulham
The holders should go through although Fulham have the exact player who might beg to differ, Alexsandar Mitrovic. A born striker who will take it as a personal crusade to oust City and with his appetite for goals, and an impressive strike rate of 127 goals in just over 300 games, the stats to back that drive up. Still only 25 he has an even better strike rate for Serbia, better than one goal every two games. It will be interesting to see what kind of side Pep puts out for this one but whoever he selects at the heart of the defence will not relish facing Mitrovic. If they thought Tom Pope was a handful wait until matchday.
Manchester City should progress
Rochdale or Newcastle United v Oxford United
I think Rochdale missed their chance at Spotland. I don`t see Newcastle slipping up at home but you never know. Such was the improvement Rochdale produced via their substitutions in the second half during the 3rd Round draw they may spring a surprise but I doubt it. Fifty thousand Geordies at SJP will make sure their team doesn`t let them down.
Newcastle for Round 5
Portsmouth v Barnsley
Portsmouth are not pulling up any trees in mid-table of League One while Barnsley continue to confound near the foot of the Championship. One week they look likely to join Portsmouth in the lower division then they go on a run and win three and draw 2 in five games. The obvious incentive for both struggling teams is the hope of progressing and pulling a plum in Round 5. That being a major factor I go for Barnsley to win.
Bristol City or Shrewsbury v Liverpool
Home advantage may just give Shrewsbury a slight edge going into the replay against City but I doubt it. Lee Johnson`s side may have fallen off the pace in the Championship but only because their quality players haven`t been consistent enough. That desire may well kick-in again with the incentive of playing against the European and World Club Champions so I think they will get past Shrewsbury in the replay.
Then it becomes a different ball game against a Liverpool team that, under strength, went out of the League Cup with pride, but with another less-than first team line up put Everton out in Round 3.
Liverpool to reach Round 5
Brian Beard is Associate Historian to the Football Association