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Liverpool and Chelsea defeats would be the big shocks of the FA Cup weekend

by Aidan Elder | January 25, 2013
GIVING A HAND - Liverpool will hope to beat Oldham with less fuss than they beat Mansfield

GIVING A HAND – Liverpool will hope to beat Oldham with less fuss than they beat Mansfield

By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer

There’s a crucial weekend of FA Cup action to look forward to. It’s the round when you can either get beaten and still say ‘we didn’t really care about it anyway’ or win and start dreaming about getting your hopes up of a trip to Wembley and lame song that gets to about #84 on the iTunes download chart to mark the occasion. Yes, it’s the 4th round of the FA Cup and as ever, there’s plenty of tiny underdog versus big mean Goliath narrative to get your teeth into.

The Paddy Power Blog has taken a look at the games and picked out the five with the biggest gulf in class in terms of league places.

Norwich v Luton

Carrow Road, Sat. 3pm
Difference: 86 places

Actual likelihood of a shock:
With home advantage and the possible drunken ranting of Delia Smith to spur them on, the Canaries should secure a place in the fifth round. But Chris Hughton will have more than one eye on being dragged into the relegation scrap, so you have to wonder how arsed they are about an FA Cup run. They played a weakened team in the last round and that could open the door for in-form Luton.

The Hatters have been doing well lately, albeit it four leagues below their top flight rivals. They’re unbeaten in four games and have only lost two of their last 14 matches in all competitions. And to cite something slightly less logical, having beaten Wolves in the third round, they might have acquired some sort of taste for beating teams with animal nicknames – we just don’t know.

Form also gives Norwich a follow-up kick in the nuts due to the fact they’ve won once in the last seven games and that was their third round assignment against Peterborough. They’ve lost five games in that run and even the point they took at home to Newcastle looks less of an achievement that’s to the Magpies’ nosedive. Plus, they made Liverpool look like Barcelona last weekend, which is quite some achievement when they’ve got Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing in midfield.

There’s a chance of a shock, but there’s also a chance Delia will get her hands on the microphone. I know which I’d prefer to see.

Macclesfield v Wigan

Moss Rose, Sat. 3pm
Difference: 83 places

Actual likelihood of a shock:
The substantial gulf in class between the team would have you think it’ll be straightforward for Wigan, but the fact that Roberto Martinez cares about the FA Cup about as much as Adam Sandler cares about making high quality, thought-provoking cinema. Not much. As he did in the last round, the Latics boss is likely to send out a second string team and it’s not as if his first string were that good to begin with.

Similar to Luton, Macclesfield have the vague straw to clutch at that is ‘decent non-league form’ on their side. They’re right in the hunt for a place in League 2’s land of milk and honey. They’ve lost once in their last six games and if they need a ‘sounds worse than it actually is stat’ to convince them they’ve got a chance, Wigan haven’t won a league game this year. In fairness, that’s only three games, so the encouragement the Silkmen can take from that is nebulous at best. They do have home advantage on their side and if they turn the pitch into a cabbage patch, that could upset Wigan’s preferred style of free-flowing football.

Don’t be surprised if the minnows win this one, sending Roberto Martinez into a spiral of depression that lasts literally milliseconds.

MOW CUP WINS, MOW PROBLEMS? Boro are favourites to beat Aldershot, but Tony Mowbray might prefer to concentrate on the league (pic: Inpho)

MOW CUP WINS, MOW PROBLEMS? Boro are favourites to beat Aldershot, but Tony Mowbray might prefer to concentrate on the league (pic: Inpho)

Middlesbrough v Aldershot

The Riverside, Sat. 3pm
Difference: 64 places

Actual likelihood of a shock:
With promotion to the top flight on Middlesbrough’s mind and staying in the league Aldershot’s priority, neither side are too likely to care too much about a cup run. Amidst all the mutual indifference, you’d expect Boro’s quality to see them through, but a worrying run of three league defeats in a row gives the minnows hope that they’ll the round’s big club scalpers. Tony Mowbray’s team have only won once in four attempts this year and that came in the third round against Hastings United from the sixth tier of the league pyramid.

On the flipside, the Shots has been going along nicely so far this year, certainly better than you’d expect from a team dangerously close to having trips to Woking and Hereford on their schedule next season. Since we made the new year’s resolutions we’ve already forgotten at the start of the month, Dean Holdsworth’s team have won four out of five games, only losing the first game on the year on Tuesday.

The minnows aren’t completely without hope in this one, but they are up against it. If he could pull it off, this would rank as Holdsworth’s greatest achievement since he landed Lindsay Dawn McKenzie.

Oldham v Liverpool

Boundary Park, Sun. 4pm
Difference: 56 places

Actual likelihood of a shock:
Liverpool’s tonking of Norwich last weekend and the last half an hour at Old Trafford the week before might have you thinking this should be a regulation beat-down of an underdog, but don’t be fooled. Brendan Rodgers is working on implementing his vision for the club and they are improving, they’re still about as convincing as Lance Armstrong telling Oprah he’s full of remorse. They needed Luis Suarez’s hand and some Mr. Magoo-ing from the match officials to overcome Mansfield in the last round and Sunday’s match is a similar challenge.

If the Anfield-loathing section of football-land are hoping for an upset, Oldham’s recent form isn’t much encouragement. The Latics are labouring towards the bottom of League One and their win over Nottingham Forest in the third round was their only one in their last nine attempts. Plus, the two teams met in the third round of last year’s competition and Liverpool won that 5-1 even with Kenny Dalglish as manager and a team so second string, half of them have left the club since.

The intangible benefit they get from the vocal home support and Liverpool’s not yet eradicated flakiness are grounds for some Oldham optimism. The fact they’re playing rubbish somewhat balances that out. The Reds should avoid a the giant-killing banana skin here.

Brentford v Chelsea

Griffin Park, Sun. 12pm
Difference: 44 places

Actual likelihood of a shock:
Chelsea are just so ‘baffling enigma’ at the moment, you’ve got to think a shock is definitely possible. Then again you could have said the same thing in the build-up to their third round tie at Southampton and they handed the Saints a resounding pummeling. Although Eden Hazard’s scuffle with a Swansea ballboy was the standout memory of this week’s football, it’s important to remember there was also a game of football played that night and it wasn’t one that reflected especially well on the Blues. The encouragement they could take from their slightly less convincing than it should have been victory over Arsenal was wiped away in an instant and like a TV presenter about to interview Kerry Katona, we’re not quite sure what we’re going to get.

Something a little more concrete is the fact Brentford are in League One and they’re towards the top of it. They lost just one league game since the middle of October and since Uwe Rosler took charge in 2011, they’ve been making upwards progress. With their egos inflated from a good run of form, home advantage and the motivation of facing a stuttering big boy, they’ll could be harder to dislodge from the cup than the ball from the hands of a specialist time-wasting ballboy. The Bees have beaten Chelsea at home, but as it was around 75 years ago, it’s about as relevant today as Sepp Blatter’s views on anything.

Brentford have a great chance of kicking Chelsea when they’re down, which would be a refreshing role reversal for the Blues.

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