Happy New Year!
Although it’s the FA Cup that takes precedence this week, you must have failed to notice that there were some interesting (to say the least) games over the Christmas period.
I’ll return to the League next week, but suffice to say the holiday programme in the Championship was as entertaining and unpredictable as ever.
It’s the usual format for the FA Cup: I’ve selected the most and least competitive ties for each of the possible divisional combinations with an ‘honourable mention’ where appropriate for games that might provide some talking points. All kick offs are 3pm today unless stated.
Premier League Opposition
Derby v Southampton
Fifth meeting in the FA Cup, Derby have yet to lose any of their ties against the Saints since their first meeting in the competition 130 years ago. Last match: 2-0, 21 years ago.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Derby couldn’t be any more Derby at the moment: they’ve only lost one of their last six home games but haven’t won since the start of December. The Rams haven’t also won a home FA Cup tie for four years.
Until winning at Huddersfield just before Christmas, Southampton had lost five of their last six away games although to be fair that includes a League Cup defeat on penalties at Leicester. They’ve only lost one of their last six away FA Cup games, at eventual winners Chelsea last season.
Manchester City v Rotherham (tomorrow, 2pm)
It would go down as one of the all time FA Cup upsets if Rotherham won at the Etihad, but there are a number of reasons to suspect that’s not going to happen.
This game will be their third meeting in the cup: 40 years ago Rotherham drew at Maine Road but lost the replay 4-2 at Millmoor. However it’s worth remembering that since 2010, Rotherham have only won two of their last seven away FA Cup ties and they’ve not won an away game in the Championship since April 2016. Hardly inspires confidence does it?
Possible upset: Bristol City v Huddersfield (today, 5:30pm)
A question of priorities in both of these games, with the game at Loftus Road being the most interesting one considering the results over the Christmas period. Leeds and WBA are aiming for automatic promotion, after a poor start QPR are only four points of the playoff places and Wigan‘s recent run of terrible form could mean that the Latics are sucked into a relegation battle that looked unlikely a few weeks ago.
QPR v Leeds (tomorrow, 2pm)
This will be their third meeting in competition, the most recent was in February 1987 when Leeds won by the odd goal in three before reaching the semi finals. The first and only match in the FA Cup in London was 87 years ago (QPR won 3-1) but that was held at the White City Stadium.
Leeds have only lost two of their eight trips to Loftus Road since 2000 and won the last game they played there by 3-1.
WBA v Wigan (12:30pm)
First meeting in the FA Cup but Wigan’s second trip to the Hawthorns in ten days – the Latics lost 2-0 on Boxing Day – but that was the first time West Brom had won at home since mid November and their momentum seems to have slowed down in recent weeks. That’s still loads better than Wigan’s away record: without a win in eleven and earning just two points from the 33 available over that period. It seems inconceivable that they were in the top ten when they beat the Baggies in October.
Honourable mention: Millwall v Hull (Sunday, 2pm)
League One Opponents
Accrington Stanley v Ipswich
Have never met in any competition, but there’s an above average change that this might be the first of many encounters over the next 12 months – this one has upset written all over it. Stanley’s flirtation with the League One playoffs was brief but they seem to established themselves as a solid mid table side in the increasingly polarised landscape of the third tier even though they’ve only won two of their last ten games. Ipswich have lost six of their last seven road trips in the Championship and haven’t scored an away league goal for over seven hours.
Brentford v Oxford
Third meeting in comp but the first since January 1964: in the two previous games at Griffin Park the teams won once each. Neither team has been particularly good form recently: Brentford have only one of their last ten games but weren’t beaten over the Christmas period whilst Oxford haven’t won an away game in League One this season and have lost three in a row in the same competition.
Since 2000 at Griffin Park: 3-1-1, last meeting was a 4-0 Oxford victory in the League Cup in August 2015.
Other games to monitor in this category: Luton v Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough v Peterborough. Head over to Buzzin’ League One Football for a quick look at those matches.
Opponents from outside the EFL
Sheffield United v Barnet (tomorrow, 2pm)
First ever meeting in any competition; the Blades had an outstanding Christmas (more of that next week) and have only lost one home FA Cup tie in the last seven years. Oddly enough, Barnet’s win at Bristol Rovers was only their second victory in an away FA Cup tie in the last seven years: this looks spectacularly one sided.
If anything unexpected happens – and I think it’s possible in a couple of games – I’ll be posting an update on Sunday evening or Monday morning.