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Sunday 31 August 2014

7 things to look out for in the FA Cup this weekend

Declan Whooley

Published 24/01/2014 | 14:58

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Iago Aspas of Liverpool celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 during the Budweiser FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Oldham Athletic at Anfield on January 5, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Iago Aspas of Liverpool celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 during the FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Oldham Athletic at Anfield

Just 32 teams remain in the FA Cup and while some have more realistic ambitions than others, there could well be a few shocks this weekend.

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Man City are currently the favourites to land the trophy next May with Watford making the daunting visit to the Etihad on Saturday, while Preston will hope to shorten their 375/1 odds when they travel to Nottingham Forest tonight.

Here are seven things to look out for on FA Cup weekend.

Can Swansea continue where they left off?

Few would have given the Swans any chance of being in the fourth round when they were drawn away to Man United last time out, but their unlikely victory has given them another away trip.

Next up are Birmingham, their conquerors in the Capital One Cup, though the Blues have only won three of their last 24 FA Cup games against higher-ranked sides.

Birmingham are just three points above the relegation zone in the Championship and Michael Laudrup will hope his side have enough to see them through.

Bourn-again Reds

Liverpool have surpassed expectations this season, but while Champions League qualification would meet their objectives, the FA Cup offers more than a realistic chance of silverware.

The tie at Bournemouth is the early kick-off tomorrow as the Cherries are bidding to reach the fifth found for the first tie since 1989.

Mission number one will be to curb the threat of Luis Suarez who has scored five goals in his previous seven FA Cup appearances,

Wat a challenge for the Hornets

If Man City are in the mood, then Watford should be afraid. Very afraid. In their last two home cup games Manuel Pellegrini’s men have put 11 goals past Blackburn and West Ham and even though Silva and Negredo have been ruled outi and some of their stars may be rested, they can call on serious cavalry to step in.

Watford have been the draw specialists in the Championship, finishing all square in 10 of their 26 games and would gladly take a glamorous replay at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets have lost their last six FA Cup games against teams from higher divisions and are winless in 10 and it would be a huge surprise if this unwanted record wasn’t extended.

Crystal clear for Cup holders

Tony Pulis has often treated the FA Cup as an unwanted distraction from the bread-and-butter of the league while at Stoke, so considering where Palace find themselves in the top-flight, this represents a chance for Wigan to cause a minor upset.

The Cup holders will have home advantage against a Palace side that ended a run of four consecutive away defeats in this competition with victory at West Brom in the third round.

Is this the End for Preston as they go they go to the Forest?

Priority for Billy Davies will be for Forest to consolidate their play-off position in the Championship, but supporters will hope to build on their thrashing of West Ham in the last round when Preston come to town tonight.

Preston are going well in League One, currently in fourth position, but Forest should have the upper hand, especially at the City Ground.

Shock at the Reebok?

Perhaps not a fixture that will have neutrals hot under the collar, it does nonetheless provide an opportunity for a Premier League scalp.

The Trotters have been struggling this season and are languishing just four points above the relegation zone, but should have little difficulty in raising their game for their top-flight opponents.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer masterminded an away win over Newcastle in his first game in charge last time out and if the Bluebirds are to prevail they will have to re-write history as they have never beaten Wanderers in what will be their sixth attempt.

Can Rochdale make it a bleak Saturday for Wednesday?

Sheffield Wednesday sit two divisions and 31 places ahead of Rochdale, but will know this has the potential to be a banana skin for the Championship outfit.

Rochdale are just one point off table-toppers Scunthorpe in League Two and this is only the fourth time in their history they have reached the fourth round of the competition.

Wednesday have only made the fifth round once since relegation from the Premier League in 1999/00 and it promises to be a raucous crowd at the Spotland Stadium cheering the home side on.

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