FA Cup preview: Can Grimsby Town become latest giant slayers?

Wrexham AFC’s cinderella run a the FA Cup is over, but English soccer’s most prestigious tournament rolls on with the promise of offering up some more remarkable stories. 

The fifth round of the FA Cup, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 1, features eight matches in total, including Premier League side Southampton hosting lowly Grimsby Town, who compete in the English fourth division. 

Here’s what you need to know about the FA Cup’s fifth round.  

Single-elimination format   

The eight matches that make up the fifth round are all single elimination and not two-legged, home-and-away affairs. If a team loses, they’re eliminated.  

In previous rounds, if a game was tied after 90 minutes of regulation time, a replay match was scheduled for a later date to determine who moved on.   

But there are no replays in this round. If a game is tied after 90 minutes, it goes to extra time and then a penalty shootout (if necessary) to determine the winner. The eight winners advance to the quarterfinals, which kicks off on March 18. 

Stoke City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion  

Second-division club Stoke City welcomes Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion to Bet365 Stadium on Tuesday (2:15 p.m. ET) in what will only be the second FA Cup meeting between the two clubs. Stoke defeated Brighton 1-0 in the fifth round during the 2010-11 tournament en route to reaching the FA Cup finals for the first time in its history. 

Even though Brighton plays in a higher division at the moment, it hasn’t had much success against Stoke over the years. The Seagulls are winless in their last 10 games in all competitions against the Potters (eight losses) since registering a 1-0 win in 2001. 

Keep an eye on Scottish forward Jacob Brown, who has three goals in his previous four FA Cup appearances for Stoke.  

Leicester City vs. Blackburn Rovers  

Another battle between teams in different divisions takes place when the Premier League’s Leicester City hosts second tier outfit Blackburn Rovers at King Power Stadium on Tuesday (2:30 p.m. ET). 

These clubs last clashed in the FA Cup during the 2004-05 tournament when Paul Dickov scored in a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals. Leicester has a penchant for successfully navigating its fifth-round matches in the FA Cup, winning its last three via 1-0 home victories in 2018, 2020 and 2021. Blackburn hasn’t reached the fifth round since suffering a 2-1 home loss to Manchester United in 2018. 

Blackburn would be well advised to keep close tabs on Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigerian forward scored the decisive goals for Leicester in its third- and fourth-round wins this season, and he has 17 FA Cup goals to his credit since 2016 — more than any other player during that time. 

Fulham vs. Leeds United 

It’s an all-Premier League affair on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET) when Leeds United pays a visit to Craven Cottage for its first ever FA Cup meeting against Fulham. 

Incredibly, seven different players have scored for Leeds in its current FA Cup run, including Dominican fullback Junior Firpo who netted the winner against third-division team Accrington Stanley in the fourth round. 

But Leeds have had a tough time of it against Premier League clubs over the years, suffering shutout losses in each of their last five FA Cup games against top tier opponents. 

Fulham earned a 3-2 win over Leeds at Elland Road in Premier League action earlier this season. 

Bristol City vs. Manchester City 

Second-division side Bristol City will have its hands full with the Premier League’s Manchester at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday (3:00 p.m. ET) if recent history is any indication. 

Man City have won each of their previous 12 FA Cup contests against lower division clubs by a combined score of 42-8. The Blues have also won 10 consecutive road games in the FA Cup, a run that dates back to 2019. 

Bristol City, meanwhile, have been eliminated in 13 of their last 14 matches in the fifth round of the FA Cup — their last win at this stage of the competition came during the 1973-74 tournament. 

This will be the first ever FA Cup contest between the two teams, but they did meet in the semifinals of the 2017-18 League Cup, when Manchester City won both legs. 

Southampton vs. Grimsby Town  

All eyes will be on the fourth division’s Grimsby Town, the lowest-ranked team remaining in this season’s FA Cup, when they play away to the Premier League’s Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday (2:15 p.m. E.T.) 

Grimsby Town have already knocked off four higher-ranked teams in this season’s competition. But any chance of another giant slaying seems unlikely, considering that Southampton have lost just one of their 32 FA Cup matches against a lower-division club. The Saints have also progressed to the quarterfinals over the last two seasons. 

Grimsby Town previously reached the fifth round in 1995-96 when they lost to Chelsea.  

Burnley vs. Fleetwood Town 

The only matchup of the FA Cup fifth round not involving a Premier League team will take place when second-division side Burnley welcome third-tier club Fleetwood Town to Turf Moor on Wednesday (2:30 p.m. ET). 

The fifth round has been a major obstacle for Burnley over the years — the Clarets have lost each of their last six fifth-round matches and haven’t advanced to the quarterfinals since the 2002-03 campaign. In contrast, this is Fleetwood Town’s first appearance in the fifth round since the club’s formation in 1908. 

Burnley have scored six times in this season’s FA Cup, with Manuel Benson, Nathan Tella and Anass Zaroury each bagging a brace. 

Wednesday’s match is the first meeting in any competition between the clubs. 

Manchester United vs. West Ham United

Manchester United welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford on Wednesday (2:45 p.m. ET) in one of only two all-Premier League matchups in the fifth round. 

The Red Devils and the Hammers are familiar dance partners in the FA Cup, as this week’s game marks the 12th meeting between the sides in the competition. United won the last match 1-0 in the fifth round of the 2020-21 tournament. West Ham’s previous win came in 2001 courtesy of a goal from Paolo Di Canio. 

Old Trafford has served as a fortress in the FA Cup over the years. Man United have won 13 of their previous 15 home matches (with two draws) — the last visiting team to beat Man United in the tournament was Arsenal in 2015. 

Incredibly, Manchester United have advanced in their last 12 fifth-round games since a 1-0 loss to Liverpool in the 2005-06 campaign. 

Sheffield United vs. Tottenham Hotspur 

Fresh off dumping Wrexham AFC out of the tournament via a fourth-round replay, second-tier side Sheffield United faces a much tougher assessment when it hosts Tottenham at Bramall Lane on Wednesday (2:55 p.m. ET) 

Tottenham are aiming to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2017-18 after losing in the fifth round in each of the previous three seasons. 

Son Heung-min has been the Spurs’ go-to man in the FA Cup. The South Korean international has 14 goals and 11 assists in 27 FA Cup appearances since making his debut in the competition in 2016. 

Wednesday marks the first FA Cup contest between the clubs since Sheffield registered a 3-0 win in the fourth round of the 1957-58 tournament.  

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.      


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