With 64 teams in action throughout the weekend, football fans are all set for the return of the sport’s oldest competition, the FA Cup, as all Premier League and Championship clubs enter the fray.
Whilst many believe that the ‘magic’ of the cup may have dwindled away in recent years, there is still certainly a lot to play for. Managers up and down the country look towards a cup run in order to increase their club’s revenue and to put smiles on supporter’s faces.
So with all twenty Premier League clubs in action over the next few days, which games should we be looking out for?
Aston Villa v Liverpool (Friday, 19:45)
Friday night football offers us two intriguing match-ups from top division clubs. At Villa Park, Dean Smith will be eyeing up the possibility to add even more misery on Liverpool, 3 months on from the 7-2 demolition back in October.
Jurgen Klopp’s men should be full of motivation heading into this game, however, as they seek out their first victory since that resounding 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
The Red’s struggles have been highlighted by their lack of goals in recent outings, and they have now gone over 255 minutes since last finding the net. Expect Liverpool’s attacking trio to come out all guns blazing, as they look to bring an end to this unwanted stat.
Quite possibly the tie of the round, make sure to tune in to BT Sport for this one tomorrow night.
Player to watch: Jack Grealish
Wolves v Crystal Palace (Friday, 19:45)
Friday’s other showing will be live on BT Sports Extra 2, as out-of-form Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome Crystal Palace to Molineux.
With only one win in their last seven league matches, this FA Cup tie provides Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo with a chance to swift momentum in their favour, before facing both Everton and Chelsea in the coming weeks.
Roy Hodgson’s Palace side, on the other hand, will be hoping to get on better than last season, when they were knocked out in the 3rd round by Championship side Derby County.
With both sides unlikely to face relegation this season, both managers may be looking to the cup with one eye on reaching Wembley – so we may be in for a bit of a cracker.
Player to watch – Eberechi Eze
Marine v Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday, 17:00)
Non-league outfit Marine FC will have been eagerly anticipating this one ever since the draw was made at the end of November.
The Merseyside-based club, who currently sit in 6th place in the eighth tier of English football, will be hoping to pull off the upset of the round as the two clubs meet on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho and company will be looking to avoid any such occurrence and are expected to take quite a few of his first-team squad up North to Crosby.
Spurs, who have already reached the EFL Cup final already this season, will no doubt be eyeing up another trip to Wembley, so expect the Londoners to take no prisoners in this mouth-watering encounter.
Player to watch – Niall Cummins
Stockport County v West Ham United (Monday, 20:00)
Yet another Non-league v Premier League battle takes place the following evening, as Vanarama National League promotion pushers Stockport County take on West Ham.
Although fans won’t be able to attend the game at Edgeley Park, Hatters supporters will no doubt be cheering on at home – as they seek to add to their wins over League One side Rochdale, and fellow Nation League opponents Yeovil Town in the previous rounds.
West Ham, on the other hand, will be well aware of their struggles against lower-ranked sides over the past few seasons – The Hammers have bowed out of the FA Cup against lowly opposition in each of the past three years.
However, their recent win away to Everton should give them confidence heading into this tie, as boss David Moyes hopes to avoid yet another cup humbling.
Player to watch – Said Benrahma
You can see the full round of fixtures here, on the FA website.