FA Cup talking points: Tough trip for Ole and Pep looks for Fulham boost
The FA Cup takes centre stage again this weekend as the road to Wembley continues.
Tranmere and Shrewsbury will both be hoping to pull off an upset, while Premier League managers are again expected to make full use of their squads.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the fourth round.
Which United will pitch up at Prenton Park?
When you are feeling the heat and being jeered of by your own fans – or those left in Old Trafford after the midweek defeat by Burnley anyway – a testing trip to Tranmere and a ‘bobbly’ pitch is probably not just what the doctor ordered. Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though, remains convinced he will be given the time to turn the stumbling giants around. Even with a much-changed side, United should still have more than enough to get past the League One outfit, who came through their rearranged third-round replay against Watford on Thursday night. If Rovers, though, dish out another upset, those calls for change on and off the pitch at United will get even louder.
Can the Shrews tame the rampant Reds?
While United are a shadow of their former selves, Liverpool appear destined to finally land that illusive Premier League crown after battling to yet another victory at Wolves on Thursday. Manager Jurgen Klopp will no doubt use the cup tie to give some of his top stars a well-earned breather, with the focus on bigger prizes. New Meadow will certainly be an eye opener for those who do play on Sunday – with the Shrews ready to make the most of their own moment in the spotlight.
Holders City hoping for cup of cheer
Given Liverpool’s dominance in the Premier League, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will be able to take a break from worrying about how far they are behind when the FA Cup holders host Fulham on Sunday. While City also have European ambitions, staying on course to retain the famous old trophy can only help build momentum – and will also give some fringe players a chance to lay down a marker for the challenges ahead.
VAR gets a mini-break
With VAR not set to be deployed in every FA Cup fourth-round tie, there will be several top-flight managers left with something else to focus their post-match tirades on. Only Premier League grounds will have back-up from Stockley Park – which leaves Anthony Taylor and his assistants having to bear the brunt of any decisions which might fall against Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder down at Millwall.
Will a change be as good as a rest?
Following the hectic Christmas and New Year schedule, the FA Cup third-round saw sweeping changes to personnel. Premier League teams made on average over seven changes to their sides. Sheffield United altered all 11 players, while Leicester and Southampton each made 10 as teams averaged some 7.2 changes. It is likely to be a similar trend across the fourth-round ties – which will also provide others a chance to shine, with Norwich teenage forward Adam Idah having come in to score a hat-trick in the 4-2 win at Preston.