In a season where a number of the Premier League’s leading sides have gone down in the early stages of the 2014-15 FA Cup — Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton, the PL’s current top-three teams, were all knocked out on Saturday — the door is wide open for one of the “smaller” clubs, typically afterthoughts in a knockout competition, to capitalize.
[ MORE: Saturday’s FA Cup roundup ]
On Sunday, Premier League sides Arsenal, West Ham United and Aston Villa are all schedule to square off against non-PL competition, and with Saturday’s upsets firmly in the back of their minds, all hope to avoid similar fate and join the likes of Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Reading, Bradford City and Derby in the fifth round.
Arsenal, current holders of the FA Cup, will make the 80-mile journey to the South Coast of England where they’ll face Brighton & Hove Albion (11 am ET), who currently sit in 19th place in the Championship. The Gunners will likely be without Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Elsewhere, West Ham will be away to second-placed League 1 side Bristol City (9 am ET). Sam Allardyce’s squad has a mostly clean bill of health as the West Ham manager revealed on Friday that only James Collins and Diafra Sakho are likely to miss the fourth round tie. With a number of Premier League “big boys” out of the way, West Ham are exactly the type of team who should be looking to make the kind of Cup run they’d otherwise be incapable of making in other years.
“Upset” alert of the day: Current Championship leaders Bournemouth are away to Aston Villa (10 am ET), where Eddie Howe’s men are sure to have giant-slaying on their mind as the Cherries look to make further noise in their promotion push campaign. On the other hand, Villa, who currently sit 15th in the PL, just three points clear of relegation, may well see any extra games on the schedule as a distraction in their fight to stay up.