No let up for Liverpool as United loom in cup

LONDON - Roy Hodgson must feel like a man under siege at the moment and the Liverpool manager cannot even look forward to some calmer waters in the third round of the FA Cup, which takes centre stage this weekend.

With his ailing side closer to the relegation zone than the top four in the Premier League the last thing he needs right now is a trip to arch rivals Manchester United, but that is excactly what fate threw at him when the draw was made.

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Manchester United against Liverpool on Sunday is the pick of third round, which unusually features just one all top flight clash.

The draw has still provided plenty of quirks, however, none more so than Championship Leicester City's home tie with Manchester City.

Leicester manager Sven Goran Eriksson will be eager to get one over on the club that sacked him after a season in charge in 2008, just before the money began pouring into Eastlands.

Arsenal host Leeds United, who caused a seismic shock this time last year by knocking out Manchester United, while holders Chelsea have a home clash against second tier opponents in Roy Keane's League Cup semi-finalists Ipswich Town.

With their Premier League hopes disappearing up in smoke after a dreadful run of form, Chelsea's best hope of salvation this season looks like being in cup competitions.

Several minor league sides will be hoping to grab the spotlight, including York City, who take on the Premier League's Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.


United's home game against Liverpool will recall plenty of memories of past clashes between the sides in the world's oldest cup competition but it is years since they met with such contrasting fortunes.

United took a grip of the Premier League title race this week with victory over Stoke City while all their rivals dropped points. Liverpool lost 3-1 at Blackburn Rovers - a defeat that turned up the heat on Hodgson.

"In football you make certain you try and get over the result, you make certain the next result is a better one and hopefully wipes away the memory, that's all you can do," Hodgson told Liverpool's website.

"Football unfortunately throws up some good moments and bad moments, and when it throws up a bad moment there is no amount of talking that is going to change anything. It'll be the next performance which could change things."

He will get precious little sympathy at Old Trafford.

United, the competition's most successful club with 11 triumphs, have not lifted the trophy for seven years, losing their most recent finals in 2005 and 2007.

Defeat by Leeds, then in the third tier, last season was also tough to swallow for manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has made the FA Cup one of his main priorities this season.

"It was a bad result last season against Leeds, especially considering the rivalry between the two clubs," Ferguson told United's Inside magazine. "In hindsight I could have picked a stronger team and I won't be making that mistake this time."

"It's an important trophy so there is a strong desire to get our hands back on it.

"We haven't won it since 2004, or been to Wembley in the final since we lost to Chelsea in 2007. So we definitely want to get back there. And we want to win it."

Fergsuon hopes Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and Wayne Rooney, all of whom missed Tuesday's victory over Stoke with injury, could return to face Liverpool.

"The three of them are a bit of a worry," Ferguson said. "We're hopeful we can get at least two of them ready for Sunday."