Weekend Wanderings: FA Cup Weekend – Fourth Round

This weekend the FA Cup returns and clubs up and down the country are preparing for their fourth round ties.

The draw threw up some interesting pairings but there are also a host of top stories beyond these shores.

Here are some of the fixtures you should be looking out for this weekend. 

1. Can Newport pull off another shock?

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League Two’s Newport County’s gave us one of the results of the third round as they dumped Premier League Leicester out of the competition.

As a reward for their efforts Michael Flynn’s team were drawn against Middlesbrough, bringing them up against another Welshman, Tony Pulis.

With Boro harbouring ambitions of promotion back to the top tier this season, Newport know his will be another difficult hurdle to overcome if they are to continue in the competition.

But the performance against Leicester showcased the best of them. If they reach those levels again – not to mention the fact Pulis may rest some players – who knows what could happen.

2. Can AFC Wimbledon give West Ham another scare?

One of the matches in the FA Cup fourth round has a familiar look about it as AFC Wimbledon host West Ham on Saturday.

It’s familiar because the two went head to head in the second round of the Carabao Cup back in August.

During that match AFC Wimbledon gave the Hammers an almighty scare taking a 1-0 lead in at half time – West Ham we’re struggling in the league too.

This time around the circumstances have changed slightly – West Ham have found some form and are in the running to be the best of the rest in the Premier League, after the top six.

Things have also changed at AFC Wimbledon who are now managed by Wally Downes (who had a stint as a coach at West Ham under Avram Grant and Sam Allardyce), for their Carabao Cup meeting Neal Ardley was still in the hotseat.

Manuel Pellegrini is expected to rotate his squad in order to give some youngsters some more game time, such as Grady Diangana, but we all know what could happen when playing too many players who haven’t seen regular game time.

3. Greg Stewart and his awkward reunion

The Scottish title race is still very much alive  with Celtic, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Aberdeen all separated by three points.

On Saturday, two of those challengers Aberdeen and Kilmarnock go head to head but the game will have a particularly awkward feel about it if you are Greg Stewart.

The on-loan Birmingham midfielder was in superb form for Kilmarnock in the first half of the season scoring eight times in 17 games from his central role.

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But this January he was recalled by Birmingham before deciding to join Aberdeen on loan for the rest of the season, the team where he spent last season on loan without exactly pulling up trees.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke called that deal “bull****.”

Aberdeen boss McInnes has said Stewart simply opted for a return to Pittodrie, rather than a return to Rugby Park, and the 28-year-old now has a chance to shine in a central role that was essentially owned by Ryan Christie for the Dons last year.

Just imagine what Clarke might say if Stewart scores against his old team.

4. Can Villarreal help themselves out of trouble with a derby victory?

This Saturday we are treated to the Derbi de la Comunitat – or in other words the Valencian derby between Valencia and Villarreal.

In recent years we have become accustomed to seeing the same two clubs in the upper echelons of the La Liga table but at this moment that’s not the case.

Valencia are having a disappointing season by their standards, they currently sit in ninth, but there are worse warning signs at Villarreal with the club currently in the relegation zone, second from bottom. 

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The aptly named Yellow Submarine have won just three league games all season and are three points from safety despite having the likes of Carlos Bacca, Manu Trigueros, Santi Cazorla and Mario Gaspar to call upon. 

Villarreal need points quickly and a derby match, albeit one of the more low key derbies in Spanish football – might provide the perfect motivation for the players.

Another defeat and things start to look increasingly desperate.

5. Can Birmingham halt Chelsea?

There’s no other word to describe Chelsea’s recent form in the WSL right now other than stunning.

Their win over Arsenal two weeks ago has again thrown the title race open with Manchester City now occupying top spot ahead of the Gunners.

Chelsea still lie third but have pulled to within three points of Manchester City making this a particularly intriguing battle (albeit Arsenal still have a game in hand on their rivals).

For a while Birmingham looked like they might be joining the party but the WSL’s fourth-placed side have stuttered somewhat with manager Marc Skinner departed to Orlando Pride.

 This week the Blues unveiled former Chile and Peru boss Marta Tejedor as their new manager and her first assignment couldn’t be much tougher.

 The Spaniard’s new team are, themselves, just three points behind Emma Hayes’ side and it would be a wonderful start to her tenure if they could halt Chelsea in their stride.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

 

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