With Manchester City looking like unstoppable leaders in the race for Premier League honours, the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea will turn extra attention to the FA Cup.
City currently enjoy a nine-point lead over Liverpool in the league, and although the Reds do have a game in hand, there is no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s team remain the odds-on favourites to clinch that prized title.
Ultimately, it should add extra shine to the prospect of silverware in the FA Cup for City’s closest rivals as a blockbuster round of FA Cup action looms at the start of February.
As it is, Liverpool are on a high after recently overpowering Crystal Palace in the Premier League, while also clinching a place in the Carabao Cup final next month.
Liverpool will now aim to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup when they return to action next Sunday, with Cardiff set to travel to Anfield.
It will be interesting to see how Reds manager Jurgen Klopp does negotiate his team selection considering it will be the first game after a fortnight break,
With Naby Keita back from the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp will have an increased number of midfield options, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could drop into a central option having featured in the attack in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, for Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel’s side will now rest and recover following their relentless calendar over the Christmas and New Year period, which saw the Blues heavily disrupted by injury and Covid problems.
Before the two-week break, Tuchel’s side got back to winning ways in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and will be confident of powering past Plymouth Argyle when tackling this FA Cup clash on 5 February.
Tuchel has already confirmed that the majority of his playing squad will be given the whole of the week off between Monday 23 January and Sunday 30 January.
On the same day that Chelsea will be involved in FA Cup action, City will take on Fulham at the Etihad, with Guardiola set to face an interesting goalkeeper conundrum considering that Ederson and Zack Steffen are both on international duty, and will only be back in Manchester shortly before the Fulham match.
Scott Carson will be waiting in the wings as City bosses keep a close eye on the USA and Brazil schedules in the World Cup qualifiers.
Guardiola’s side will be aiming to win a seventh FA Cup in the club’s history, having progressed to the fourth round courtesy of an emphatic 4-1 win against League Two’s Swindon Town.
In other games to look out for after the mid-winter break, Manchester United will face Middlesbrough F.C. on Friday, 4 February, while on the Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur will host Brighton. On the same day, unheralded Kidderminster Harriers will play host to West Ham.