There were 11 draws in the third round of the 2015/16 FA Cup, which means that the majority of the match-ups for the fourth round of the tournament won't be completely decided until we get to the third-round replays scheduled for January 19th and 20th. Despite the lack of complete information, though, the Football Association announced the draw for the tournament's fourth round on Monday, January 11th, giving fans a general idea of who their favorite soccer clubs will be competing with at the end of the month.
All 16 fourth round matches are currently scheduled for the weekend of January 30th. Read on for a quick run-through of that weekend's biggest must-watch fixtures!
The Key Matchups
There may be 32 football clubs left in the running for the 2015/16 FA Cup, but the number of teams that (probably) have a chance of winning the tournament is a much shorter list. Arsenal have to be considered the frontrunners, fresh as they are off two back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015.
The Gunners will don the Arsenal home jersey 2015/16 during the weekend of January 30th for a match against Burnley. Relegated from the Premier League to the Championship at the conclusion of the 2014/15 season, Burnley shouldn't be much of an obstacle for Arsenal-particularly given that the game will see the Gunners enjoying a home field advantage. Still, last year's FA Cup fourth round brought a wealth of upsets, so you never know what's going to happen.
Also probably in the "safe bet" category is Manchester City. The Sky Blues are on the schedule for an away match against either Aston Villa or the Wycombe Wanderers. Man City enjoyed the biggest win of any team in the third round (3-0, against Norwich City) and shouldn't have any problem with either Aston Villa (the bottom-ranked team in the Premier League) or the Wycombe Wanderers (a fourth-tier club in the English soccer season).
Chelsea also have an away match on the schedule, against either Northampton Town or the Milton Keynes Dons. Despite the troubles they've had this season, the Blues should be the favorites here-not just because their potential opponents are both from lower-tiered leagues, but also because things have somewhat turned around at Chelsea since Guus Hiddink took over for Jose Mourinho.
Manchester United might actually be less of a safe bet for progressing to the round of 16. The Red Devils are drawn against second-tier squad Derby County for the round of 32. United only just skated by in the third round, beating Sheffield United 1-0. But Sheffield were a third-tier team, and United had the home field advantage. Derby County, on the other hand, play in the Championship and will be the home team for the fourth round meeting. There's no guarantee that Man United will win that fixture-though there probably is a guarantee that, if they lose, Louis van Gaal won't have a job anymore.
The other "big" fixtures on the schedule for the fourth round of the FA Cup will pit West Ham United (away) against either Liverpool or Exeter City (home); and third-tier soccer club Colchester United (home) against either Tottenham Hotspur or Leicester City. Liverpool are the big name in the former game, but the edge may belong to West Ham-particularly since Jurgen Klopp's Reds couldn't manage a win against the fourth-tier Exeter City in the third round.
In the other match, Colchester United might be the team with a concrete slot in the fourth round, but they will also almost undoubtedly be the losers. Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City are two of the best teams in English football this season. It's a shame the two clubs met so early in the FA Cup, as either could have the potential to win the tournament in 2016. Whichever club wins the January 20th replay match, though, you can bet on for a win against Colchester United during the weekend of the 30th.
Keep up to date with the latest FA Cup action by following Soccer Box on social media today. You can find us on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and other popular social platforms.