Topflight teams set to rest top players in FA Cup
Chelsea begins its defense of the FA Cup with what should be a
routine home game against second-tier club Watford on Sunday, and
manager Carlo Ancelotti has to decide whether to rest Michael
Ballack, John Terry and Frank Lampard.
With the Premier League campaign taking a break at the
halfway stage, the focus turns to the third round of the cup and
the topflight teams have largely managed to avoid each other as
they enter the competition.
That puts the coaches into a dilemma as they decide whether
to run the risk of disrespecting the game’s oldest and most
prestigious cup competition by resting their best players.
Ancelotti’s team leads the Premier League by two points, and
the Italian may well give some of the key players a break and take
a look at some of his backup squad, especially those who have made
“Together, we took this decision to maintain this squad
because we think this squad is a good squad, is able to play the
games we have in January, and we have a possibility to give an
opportunity – a great opportunity – to the young players if it’s
necessary,” he said.
Manchester United holds the record of 11 FA Cup triumphs and
has a tricky home game against runaway League One leader Leeds on
Sunday. In the past, such a matchup would have been one of the
games of the season but Leeds’ decline to the third tier has meant
that a victory at Old Trafford would now be regarded as a major
With his team just behind Chelsea in the Premier League and
with a League Cup semifinal meeting with neighbor Manchester City
to come, manager Alex Ferguson will probably give the likes of
Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic a rest.
Ferguson has won the FA Cup five times.
Likewise, Liverpool is likely to let Fernando Torres and
Steven Gerrard sit out Saturday’s visit to Reading, another team
from the League Championship which has never won the cup.
The scorer of Liverpool’s injury-time winner in a 1-0 victory
at Aston Villa on Tuesday, Torres has been hampered by injuries and
Gerrard is only just back to full fitness.
Of the traditional top four, only Arsenal faces Premier
League opposition in West Ham. But manager Arsene Wenger usually
gives his young backup players a start in cup competitions and is
unlikely to change that policy, even though his side goes to Upton
Park on Sunday with Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott sidelined.
Aston Villa-Blackburn and Wigan-Hull are the only other two
matches involving topflight teams. Villa and Blackburn have won the
cup a combined 13 times, while neither Wigan nor Hull have been in
Eight-time FA Cup winner Tottenham will be confident of a
home victory over Peterborough, which is last in the League
Championship. That will give manager Harry Redknapp the chance to
rest some of his usual starters so they can concentrate on staying
in the top four in the Premier League.
Big-spending Manchester City has a tricky game at
Middlesbrough, which was relegated from the Premier League last
Sunderland hopes to avoid the embarrassment of losing at home
to non-league Barrow and the same applies to Stoke, which welcomes
Unbeaten in 11 games, Birmingham climbed to its highest ever
Premier League position but goes to dangerous Nottingham Forest,
which is third in the League Championship.
Of the other Premier League teams facing sides from the lower
divisions: Everton hosts Carlisle, Fulham welcomes Swindon, Bolton
meets Lincoln and last-place Portsmouth takes on Coventry at home.
Wolves goes to Tranmere and Burnley visits Milton Keynes Dons.