London Soccer Shorts…

Saturday, January 4

Emirates FA Cup Third Round

Millwall v Newport County – The Den

Gary Rowett could rotate his squad as Millwall look to make cup progress at the expense of their Welsh League Two visitors.

The Lions saw off Luton Town by three goals to one at the Den last time out, leaving them on the cusp of the play-off places. Now Rowett – who has suggested key players could be rested – must decide whether to hand opportunities to the likes of Jason McCarthy, Billy Mitchell, Connor Mahoney, Jiri Skalak and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.

Newport will be without Danny McNamara – the loanee linked up with County from Millwall and is eligible for the tie.

Fulham v Aston Villa – Craven Cottage

Fulham will seek solace from the cup following a frustrating 2-1 Championship defeat to Reading at Craven Cottage on New Year’s Day.

Boss, Scott Parker, was left frustrated as his side slipped to a first loss in four, explaining: “I’ve stood in this position many a time with the same feeling, scratching your head to think how you’re one down after the first time they enter our box.

“They score a goal, we put them under immense pressure and at both ends of the pitch again today we just weren’t good enough.

“I think, ultimately, you need something more sometimes than flamboyant play, nice control of a football match, possession, chances, you need something more.”

Premier League Villa also hope the oldest cup competition in the world will offer a further boost after the relegation-haunted West Midlanders won at Burnley last time out. However, that victory came at a cost with Wesley and goalkeeper Tom Heaton now out for the rest of the season after both suffering knee ligament damage.

Brentford v Stoke City – Griffin Park

Brentford and Stoke City hit the FA Cup trail in a bit of form after recording sizable Championship victories on New Year’s Day.

The Bees thrashed Bristol City by four unanswered goals at Ashton Gate, while the Potters recorded a 5-2 victory at Huddersfield Town to ease their relegation fears.

Brentford could include exciting Turkish under-21 international forward, Halil Dervişoğlu, who has moved to Griffin Park from Sparta Rotterdam on a four-and-a-half-year deal. 

Watford v Tranmere Rovers – Vicarage Road

Nigel Pearson has brought the smiles back to Watford fans faces as his side has made a spirited fist of their Premier League survival bid of late. And the new boss will now be eyeing up cup progress at the expense of third-tier visitors, Tranmere Rovers.

The Hornets impressively saw off Wolves last time out, drawing a positive reaction from the boss “[We won by] showing that we had a desire to keep the ball out of our net when things didn’t go our way in the second half,” he told www.watfordfc.com.

“I thought we showed an understanding of the right way to try and win that game. We knew it was going to be a day which we might not see as much of the ball as we would have liked because we were playing against a side who are very accomplished at playing possession football, with good individuals and a clear way of playing.”

Watford face a Tranmere side currently struggling in League One. The Birkenhead side are without a win in three league matches and sit third from bottom. However, they reached this stage of the competition with victories over Wycombe Wanderers and Chichester City.

Sunday, January 5

Emirates FA Cup Third Round

Charlton Athletic v West Bromwich Albion – The Valley 

Charlton’s young guns will have another opportunity to impress when the ‘Addicks take on West Bromwich Albion at the Valley.

Boss, Lee Bowyer, was without thirteen players for Thursday’s narrow Championship defeat at Swansea but was quick to praise his side that contained six players aged 20 or below.

“I’m proud of my players. We lost, I hate losing but they can’t do any more than what they just did out there,” he told www.cafc.co.uk.

“I feel bad, they’ve given everything. All of those youngsters, they are a credit, a credit to our academy because they’ve just gone out there and played against some top players. 

“There are players in that Swansea side that are top players and the kids were fearless. They didn’t hide, they got on the ball, they tried to make the right decisions.”

West Brom – managed by former West Ham boss, Slaven Bilic – currently sit second in the Championship but are without a win in four. The Croat could shuffle the pack for Sunday’s cup clash.

Chelsea v Nottingham Forest – Stamford Bridge

Frank Lampard hopes his side can blow away their Stamford Bridge cobwebs with a convincing cup performance against Forest.

The Blues have lost three of their last four league matches at the Bridge. Meanwhile, the boss wasn’t impressed with his side following their draw at Brighton last time out.

“It was frustrating for different reasons,” the former midfielder told www.chelseafc.com.

“In the first half, the game was there to be won. We weren’t ruthless enough. We got the goal and we had the possession, but we just didn’t kill the game off.

“We allowed them to stay in the game. In the end, it was a wonder goal but we were lucky not to lose the game.

“In the end, the tactics matched up for both teams but they were better than us. We have to take that on the chin.”

A victory for Chelsea would be their seventh-successive success over the East Midlanders in all competitions. However, the Championship play-off hopefuls arrive off the back of a 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers – their third league victory on the bounce.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur – Riverside Stadium

Inconsistent Spurs head to the North East without their talismanic frontman, Harry Kane, who suffered a damaging hamstring injury during their frustrating defeat at Southampton.

“I don’t know yet. Maybe later today we have news, but if you ask me my feeling good news or bad news, I am more on bad news than good news,” manager, Jose Mourinho bemoaned facing the prospect of losing his influential forward. 

“Kane leaving a match the way he did it, he didn’t think twice, it took him two seconds to realise the severity of his situation.”

And that isn’t the end of Mourinho’s injury woes. He will also be without Tanguy Ndombele (hip), Ben Davies ankle), Hugo Lloris (elbow) and Danny Rose (calf) against a Middlesbrough side that has improved in recent weeks, winning their last four Championship matches on the bounce.

Queen’s Park Rangers v Swansea City – Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium

Queen’s Park Rangers will be eyeing up a unique Loftus Road Welsh double when Swansea City are the visitors on Sunday.

The R’s hope to make cup progress having hammered the Swans bitter rivals, Cardiff City, by six goals to one in the Championship last time out.

And Rangers chief, Mark Warburton, insisted it was a performance that had been coming from his charges.

“The stats today were similar to our recent games but today we were far more clinical. We moved the ball really quickly and we looked positive with our decision making,” he told www.qpr.co.uk

“We knew we had to switch the ball from side to side against a good Cardiff side with their physicality.

“We had to defend with a real passion and all over the park we gave good displays – from one to 11, we looked really strong.

“I thought we deserved to win by that number of goals because of the number of chances we created and how good we looked going forward.”

However, Swansea are likely to offer more of a threat than the hapless Bluebirds. They arrive in the capital buoyed by a 1-0 victory over Charlton – Yan Dhanda with the all-important strike. 

Crystal Palace v Derby County – Selhurst Park

Brandon Pierrick made his Premier League debut for Palace during their 1-1 draw at Norwich City and the 18-year-old could again feature when Championship side, Derby County are the visitors to Selhurst Park.

Pierrick could come up against former England striker, Wayne Rooney, who made his Rams debut at the age of 34 – setting up both goals in a 2-1 success over Barnsley last time out.

Gillingham v West Ham United – Priestfield Stadium

David Moyes will demand more of the same from his West Ham United side when they head to League One Gillingham.

The Scotsman returned for his second spell in the London Stadium hot seat and oversaw a resounding 4-0 Premier League victory over AFC Bournemouth – a result which saw his side leap out of the relegation zone.

“I’d love to be able to take all the credit but I think the players have to take all the credit today,” a buoyant Moyes explained after the crushing win.

“We only had a day and a bit with them – I have to applaud their attitude and commitment. I felt as if they could give the crowd something back, get them behind them again and they did.”

Moyes will be aware that West Ham have come a cropper against lower league opposition on several occasions in recent seasons. Wigan Athletic, AFC Wimbledon and most recently, Oxford United, have all embarrassed the east Londoners in various cup competitions. 

Monday, January 6

Emirates FA Cup Third Round

Arsenal v Leeds United – Emirates Stadium

Arsenal recorded their first victory at the Emirates Stadium in seven attempts when Manchester United were beaten by two unanswered goals last time out.

However, Mikel Arteta’s side will have to be on their guard when Championship leaders, Leeds United, arrive for a repeat of the 1972 Cup Final.

An Allan Clarke goal won the day for Leeds on that occasion 48-years ago. However, their most recent cup meeting – at the Emirates back in 2012 – was won by the Gunners thanks to a Thierry Henry strike.

Arteta could be tempted to rotate his squad and will have to assess the fitness of Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette – who both limped off during the second half of their victory over United.

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]