RAFAEL BENITEZ and Chelsea will both be hoping the FA Cup will be kind to them when they resume their own love affairs with the competition at Southampton next month.
Yesterday’s third-round draw pitted the Champions League winners against Nigel Adkins’ Saints over the weekend of January 5 and 6, and both club and manager will be hoping the headlines surrounding them are happier ones by then.
Benitez has endured a miserable first 11 days in the job since replacing Roberto Di Matteo last month, with a number of fans voicing their opposition to his appointment and only two points taken from the first nine on offer as the Blues slumped to a 3-1 loss at West Ham on Saturday.
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The Spaniard has FA Cup pedigree though, having won it with Liverpool in 2006, while Chelsea will be starting their defence of a trophy they have won four out of the last six seasons.
They have not faced Southampton yet this season – the clubs were due to meet on December 15 but Chelsea will be in Japan taking part in the World Club Cup.
Perhaps the most attractive all-Premier League tie comes at Upton Park, though, where West Ham will meet 11-time winners Manchester United.
The two met in the league last week, the Red Devils winning 1-0, but the two have enjoyed many memorable duels over the years, particularly when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal to knock Alex Ferguson’s men out in 2001.
The draw also threw up a repeat of the 1987 final between Tottenham and Coventry.
The Sky Blues famously beat Spurs 3-2 after extra-time at the old Wembley, a win which included a stunning Keith Houchen diving header.
Liverpool may not be relishing their tie.
Brendan Rodgers’ men must head to Lincoln or Mansfield, both Conference sides, who drew 3-3 on Saturday.
Arsenal’s last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup, but the first stop in their quest to win it again will be Swansea’s Liberty Stadium, the side who beat them 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the league on Saturday.
The 2011 runners-up, Stoke, go to Championship high-flyers Crystal Palace.
Premier League Wigan will be at home to Bournemouth, with fellow top-flight side Norwich at Championship side Peterborough.
The 1975 runners-up Fulham host Blackpool, nearly 60 years on from their involvement in the Matthews Final.
In three all-Championship ties, Charlton host Huddersfield, Barnsley take on Burnley at Oakwell and Leeds and Birmingham meet up at Elland Road, while MK Dons go to Sheffield Wednesday after winning their grudge match with AFC Wimbledon.
Aldershot take on Rotherham or Notts County, Accrington and Oxford replay for the right to play Sheffield United, while Bury or Southend will face Bradford or Brentford.