Second strings to contest United-Spurs Cup tie

LONDON - When Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were drawn together in the fourth round of the FA Cup it looked like a mouthwatering clash between two of the most successful clubs in the competition's history.

It now looks as though Saturday's encounter at Old Trafford will resemble a reserve match as both managers seem set to field drastically weakened sides as mounting injury lists and fixture congestion take their toll.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said after Wednesday's League Cup semi-final at Burnley that he would send a "mish-mash" of players to Old Trafford -- focusing his thoughts instead on Tuesday's relegation battle at home to Stoke City.

Spurs are struggling in the league and are off the bottom only on goal difference but they have won the FA Cup eight times, three less than United.

Redknapp has already apologised to the fans for his decision to field a weakened side.

However, he has guided three different clubs to victory over United in the FA Cup, lowly Bournemouth in 1984, West Ham United in 2001 and Portsmouth last season and victory would prove a huge confidence boost for his under-performing squad.

United booked their place in the League Cup final against Tottenham on Tuesday with a 4-3 aggregate win over Derby County, but the gloss was taken off that feat by more injury woes.

Manager Alex Ferguson, whose side also lead the title race and are in the last 16 of the Champions League, has his resources stretched to the limit after midfielder Anderson left the pitch on a stretcher and Nani and full back Rafael also picked up knocks.

First team stalwarts Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are also sidelined with injuries as United prepare for a critical phase of their campaign.

"If Alex is listening, I'm really going to send a real mish-mash team up there. I hope it doesn't upset the fans, but we played extra time and we're out on our feet a little bit," Redknapp said after his side's 6-4 aggregate win over Burnley.


Another standout tie of the round, Everton's trip to Liverpool, is also arguably overshadowed by other priorities.

Everton return to Anfield for the second time in six days on Sunday seeking to go one better by knocking their arch-rivals out of the FA Cup after denting Liverpool's title hopes when Tim Cahill's late header earned them a 1-1 draw on Monday.

That prevented Liverpool going back to the top of the Premier League and manager Rafael Benitez may be tempted to rest some of his big guns in order to strengthen the club's quest for a first league title since 1990.

Everton have not won at Anfield for almost 10 years but with 6,000 visiting fans, double the allocation for league matches, expected, the atmosphere should be electrifying.

The fourth round kicks off on Friday with an intriguing tie between Championship strugglers and local rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest at Pride Park.

The match not only evokes memories of the late Brian Clough who managed both clubs, but will also be special for the current managers who have both been appointed in the last few weeks.

Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies will be keen to get a victory on his return to Pride Park where he was sacked last season, while Clough's son Nigel is seeking his first win in the job as Derby manager.

Holders Portsmouth continue their defence with a home tie against Swansea City and last season's runners-up Cardiff City meet Arsenal, the club they beat to become the first and only club from outside England to win the cup in 1927.

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