This weekend, Premier League players will return from mid-season vacations in luxurious destinations across the globe to battle it out in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Some of them will be expected to cruise past lower-tier opposition, some are facing potential banana skins and others are locked in 50-50 shootouts with their top-flight colleagues. There are also some fascinating matchups in store between teams outside the blue-riband division. Sportsmail is on hand with everything to look out for in the latest round of FA Cup ties, including a legend’s return and potential upsets across the board.
Premier League stars return from winter breaks to play the FA Cup fourth round this weekend
David vs Goliath
The magic of the FA Cup is essentially the idea of an underdog team stepping up from the lower divisions to kill one of English football’s giants. And neutral fans across the country will be rooting for Kidderminster to pull off an all-time classic giant-killing at home to West Ham on Saturday.
On paper, there is no bigger mismatch this weekend than Russell Penn’s sixth-tier side hosting the Hammers, who currently sit fifth up in the Premier League.
David Moyes will expect to cruise into the fourth round even if he shuffles his pack to rest some key men, but close to 3,000 home fans will be flocking to Kidderminster’s Aggborough Stadium in the hope of witnessing a historic upset.
Sixth-tier side Kidderminster could provide an all-time classic FA Cup upset on Saturday
West Ham, who sit fifth up in the Premier League, are set to visit the cup’s lowest-ranked team
While Kidderminster are unlikely to upset the apple cart, there are some fourth-round ties promising potential upsets this weekend.
Manchester United have been largely unimpressive since Ralf Rangnick took interim charge at Old Trafford, and on Friday night they come up against one of the Championship’s most in-form teams in Middlesbrough.
In their last six matches, Chris Wilder’s men have taken 15 points from a possible 18, meaning a United side likely to contain some fringe players may well have their work cut out.
Manchester City are also confronted with a potential banana skin, as Championship leaders Fulham will arrive at the Etihad having scored 23 goals in their last five league matches.
Ralf Rangnick and Man United must be wary of a potential upset against Middlesbrough
Chris Wilder’s Boro side are one of the Championship’s most in-form teams right now
Saturday’s FA Cup action will also mark the return of Chelsea and England legend Frank Lampard, who gets his reign as Everton manager up and running away at Brentford.
Lampard, who is back in the Premier League a year after being sacked by Chelsea, needs to hit the ground running to galvanise a squad who are at risk of relegation after failing to win in the league since December 6.
However, the former Blues midfielder will be unable to use new signings Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli, who are both cup tied.
Frank Lampard is due to begin his reign as Everton manager in their tie away at Brentford
Chelsea fringe stars in action
Lampard’s former club have been paired with League One outfit Plymouth Argyle in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off, a test they should pass with flying colours even without their most important players.
Ahead of next week’s trip to the Middle East for the Club World Cup, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel is bound to hand minutes to several fringe stars and young prospects in need of game time at Stamford Bridge.
The likes of Marcus Bettinelli, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Saul Niguez, Harvey Vale and Xavier Simons could all be given the nod on Saturday, while it could also be the perfect opportunity for Romelu Lukaku to restore confidence in front of goal.
Lampard’s former side Chelsea could turn to their fringe players against Plymouth Argyle
A Diaz debut?
With a crucial Premier League outing against Leicester in store on Tuesday, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is also likely to rest his key men when they host Cardiff, who are fighting relegation in the Championship.
So Sunday’s cup tie looks to offer the ideal introduction to English football for new signing Luiz Diaz following his move from Porto last week.
Diaz, 25, snubbed interest from Tottenham to complete a £50million switch to Anfield. However, Klopp admitted that Diaz had not yet even met his new team-mates yet, let alone trained with them, due to being on international duty with Colombia this week.
Therefore, any debut is likely to be only from the bench, if Liverpool are well in control of the game.
New Liverpool signing Luis Diaz is in line to make his debut against Cardiff this weekend
Championship upset potential
Premier League clubs being dumped out of the cup by lower-league minnows is what every neutral will be dreaming of this weekend, but there are also some potential upsets in store when taking a look at two of the all-Championship fourth-round ties.
Peterborough, who are currently languishing down in the relegation zone, are set to welcome fourth-placed QPR to the Weston Homes Stadium on Saturday.
QPR are vying for promotion this season and have won five of their last six matches, while Peterborough are desperately hoping to avoid relegation and head into the game without a win in five. Thus, Posh booking their place in the fifth round would come as a serious shock.
There is a similar narrative in Huddersfield’s showdown with Barnsley at the John Smith’s Stadium, as the hosts are one place below QPR in fifth and their opponents sit rooted to the bottom of the table.
Clash of the runaway leaders
Man City’s meeting with Fulham on Saturday will pit the two most in-form teams in English football right now up against each other at the Etihad.
City, who are nine points clear at the Premier League summit, have not suffered a domestic defeat since they were beaten 2-0 by Crystal Palace back on October 30, while their 12-match win streak in the league only came to an end two weeks ago.
As for Fulham, they could open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Championship by winning their game in hand over Blackburn, having registered 13 points and 23 goals in their previous five outings.
Marco Silva’s Cottagers are the Championship’s top scorers by a staggering 29 goals after firing home 74 in 28 matches, and their attacking adventure could work wonders against a Pep Guardiola team sometimes susceptible to counters.
Manchester City’s clash with Fulham pits England’s two most in-form teams against each other
East Midlands derby
It has been almost eight years since East Midlands enemies Nottingham Forest and Leicester last locked horns, with the two rivals not battling it out since their Championship encounter on 19 February 2014.
But on Sunday afternoon the old adversaries will finally go toe-to-toe once again at the City Ground, where Steve Cooper’s Forest side will fancy their chances of springing an upset.
FA Cup holders Leicester head into the tie without star striker Jamie Vardy, who remains on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, having failed to win their last two games and with a tough league fixture against Liverpool to come four days later.
Forest, meanwhile, had won three games on the bounce before their shock defeat away at Cardiff last time out and will be expected to field a full-strength XI for one of their biggest days of the season.