Cup glory beckons for quartet
The first weekend in January means a break from the unrelenting slog of league football as the FA Cup third round takes centre stage.
In days gone by the league title was always the cake everyone wanted to win, with the FA Cup the cherry on top, and clubs started the competition with dreams of an appearance at Wembley and walking out in front of the Twin Towers.
Sadly now it is not the same for a number of reasons; the FA themselves have not helped in a number of ways, but playing semi-finals at Wembley certainly takes the gloss off reaching the final, as fans have already dragged themselves to the capital, with all the expense that incurs.
The riches in the Premier League and the Champions League are the real reasons for the cup’s demise, as teams struggling against the drop in the Premier League will rest players for the cup to have the best chance of remaining in the top flight.
Likewise, team’s pushing for a top-four spot will again rest players after a busy Christmas period in order to keep them fresh for the second half of the season.
Similar scenarios are played out throughout the divisions, so a club playing a full first team is a rare thing indeed in the early rounds of the competition.
The likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United can all expect to progress as a rule with weakened sides, but who should be targeting the cup as a real opportunity to win a trophy for their fans?
A glance at the Premier League table shows there are probably four teams with little real chance of breaking into the top four, while at the same time they are unlikely to be dragged into the relegation dogfight.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo could cement his status in the Black Country with a bid for the cup but will he rest players thinking they have a chance of the top four?
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has done a brilliant job with the Blades and could cap a tremendous campaign with a push for the cup.
A win for Roy Hodgson with Crystal Palace would be popular almost everywhere and Mikel Arteta could get himself off to a great start at Arsenal with yet another cup win.
Those four have little else to play for but who will recognise the opportunity and go for glory?