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High stakes in long-awaited Black Country derby
Gary O’Neil says that both Pablo Sarabia and Rayan Ait-Nouri should be fit to be in the squad to play West Brom in the FA Cup.
West Brom vs Wolves – 11.45am, Sunday
It is an early start on Sunday for this one with the game kicking off at 11.45am but expect an intense occasion at The Hawthorns as West Bromwich Albion host Wolverhampton Wanderers. It is 12 years since the Black Country derby was played in front of fans.
That meeting saw the Baggies thrash Wolves 5-1 at Molineux and Mick McCarthy sacked as a result. The fortunes of the two have flipped since then with Wolves impressing in the Premier League under Gary O’Neil while Albion find themselves in the Championship.
Wolves are unbeaten in six games since beating Chelsea on Christmas Eve and have the potency to cause any team problems with the in-form Matheus Cunha and the fit-again Pedro Neto in attack. Craig Dawson will face a hot reception against his former club.
But Carlos Corberan will be optimistic, having won four home games in a row to have his side in the play-off positions, and the atmosphere should be electric. Wolves have not won at The Hawthorns for 28 years and West Brom will defend that derby record with pride.
Both managers, both sets of supporters, will be looking forward to this – but they will be wary too. Victory in this fixture could set up a season, bringing momentum that carries beyond the cup tie. Defeat could deflate and even derail. The stakes are high.
Reds’ Quadruple push continues against Canaries as Klopp begins long goodbye
Liverpool vs Norwich City – 2.30pm, Sunday
All eyes will of course be on Jurgen Klopp as he manages for the first time since the shock announcement that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season. It will surely be an emotional one in the stands and dugout at Anfield as the long goodbye begins.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp states that he will not be involved in deciding his successor at Liverpool and explains his reasoning behind the decision.
But on the pitch, Liverpool fans are starting to get a feeling of deja vu about this season as the more the campaign progresses, the more it resembles that of 2021/22 when Klopp’s side were within only two games of winning it all.
In the end, the Reds had to settle for a domestic cup double after just missing out on the Premier League and Champions League, overcoming Chelsea on penalties in both finals – the same opponents they take on at Wembley in the Carabao Cup next month.
Highlights of the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage
This weekend, though, sees Liverpool play Norwich City at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round – they were also incidentally drawn against the Canaries in the FA Cup quarter-finals two years ago – as the Reds look to maintain their push for the Quadruple.
Klopp has been a master of rotation so far this season, managing his at times limited resources brilliantly, so expect the German to once again ring the changes ahead of key league clashes with Chelsea and Arsenal.
However, see off an improving Norwich team on Sunday lunchtime and Liverpool will keep alive the dream of a history-making Quadruple come May…
Can Newport scupper Man Utd trophy hopes?
Image: Man Utd reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 third-round win at Wigan
Newport vs Man Utd – 4.30pm, Sunday
While the Sir Jim Ratcliffe revolution has brought a renewed sense of optimism to Old Trafford, on the pitch, there remains very little by way of stimulation for Manchester United fans.
Already out of European competition, the odds look stacked against Erik ten Hag’s side qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
United head to Newport looking to take a step towards FA Cup salvation, but with a forgettable campaign a cupset defeat away from fizzling out in January, the trip to South Wales is riddled with jeopardy.
The FA Cup draw gods have looked down favourably on Ten Hag’s side, with a trip to League Two Newport bestowed upon United after labouring past League One Wigan.
But with the unconvincing nature of their third-round victory the latest episode in a season plagued with inconsistency, Newport presents a sizeable obstacle, providing they can once again punch above their weight like they have so often in cup competitions.
Dragons’ Cup run has the Wrex-Factor
Image: Tom O'Connor (far right) scored the winning goal for Wrexham at Shrewsbury
Blackburn vs Wrexham – 7.30pm, Monday
The Hollywood story at Wrexham is showing no signs of slowing down – and now they are looking to revive past FA Cup glories.
It has been three years since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s extraordinary takeover of the Welsh side but over 32 years since their historic cup victory over George Graham’s top-flight winners Arsenal.
Wrexham’s 2-1 victory at the Racecourse Ground remains one of the most famous FA Cup upsets in history and after negotiating ties against Mansfield, Yeovil and Shrewsbury this season, the latest stop on their cup adventure sees them visit the Championship’s Blackburn.
Phil Parkinson’s Dragons sit second in League Two, looking for back-to-back promotions, with star striker Paul Mullin on 10 league goals although midfielder Elliot Lee has been grabbing the headlines with his 13 strikes.
They will be backed by 7,000 travelling fans at Ewood Park against an out-of-form Blackburn side with just one win in 10 league games. The cameras are rolling…