After a frantic festive period, Premier League clubs enter the FA Cup this weekend in a third-round programme thick with historical resonance.
Improbably, the very first tie out of the hat in December’s draw, which took place in Hull, was a rematch of last season’s final between Arsenal and Hull City.
Hull manager Steve Bruce, whose side lost 3-2 at Wembley last May, described the coincidence as “amazing”, and it was to prove the first of no fewer than four final repeats.
Sunderland host Leeds United in a repeat of the 1973 final, when Don Revie’s all-conquering Leeds were beaten 1-0 by second-tier Sunderland in a match remembered for a stunning double-save by Jimmy Montgomery.
At Turf Moor, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur will face off in a remake of the 1962 final, which Spurs won 3-1 after a cagey encounter to defend the trophy they had lifted as part of the Double 12 months previously.
Liverpool travel to fourth-tier AFC Wimbledon in a tie that will rekindle memories of the 1988 final, when the original Wimbledon stunned the newly crowned league champions 1-0 in one of the competition’s biggest upsets.
Wimbledon, dubbed the ‘Crazy Gang’, subsequently left south-west London and became the Milton Keynes Dons due to falling attendances and an inability to build a new stadium, with AFC Wimbledon formed by fans opposed to the move.
“It is one of the most important milestones in our development â€“- from finally getting out of the Ryman Premier League to getting the rights to our stadium,” said Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson.
“To be playing against a Premier League team for the first time â€“- it has to be up there with them.”
– ‘Massive underdogs’ –
One of the most evocative ties of the round takes place on Sunday when third-division Yeovil Town welcome 11-time cup-winners Manchester United to Huish Park.
The teams have met only twice before, with both games coming in the FA Cup. United crushed Yeovil 8-0 in the fifth round in February 1949, having beaten them 3-0 in the third round 11 years earlier.
Chelsea, crushed 5-3 by Spurs in the league on Thursday, visit second-tier Watford, who they have beaten en route to glory in the competition on three occasions, in 1970, 2009 and 2010.
Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, could be excused a sense of trepidation ahead of their visit to Chelsea’s Premier League co-leaders Manchester City, having been annihilated 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium in the League Cup in September.
Aside from Burnley’s game against Spurs, the only other all-Premier League ties are Newcastle United’s trip to Leicester City on Saturday and Everton’s home game with West Ham United on Tuesday.
Three Premier League teams face fifth-division opposition, with Crystal Palace visiting Dover Athletic, Stoke City hosting Wrexham and Tony Pulis taking charge of West Bromwich Albion for the first time against Gateshead.
The lowest-ranked team left in the competition, Blyth Spartans of the seventh-tier Northern Premier League, tackle Championship side Birmingham City at their 4,435-capacity Croft Park home.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that we are the massive underdogs, but we will go out and give it our all,” said Blyth centre-back Nathan Buddle. “Who knows what might happen on the day?”
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated)
Friday (1945 GMT):
Cardiff City v Colchester United, Milton Keynes Dons v Chesterfield
Barnsley v Middlesbrough, Blyth Spartans v Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers v Wigan Athletic, Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion, Cambridge United v Luton Town, Charlton Athletic v Blackburn Rovers, Derby County v Southport, Doncaster Rovers v Bristol City, Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town v Reading, Leicester City v Newcastle United, Millwall v Bradford City, Preston North End v Norwich City, Rochdale v Nottingham Forest, Rotherham United v Bournemouth, Tranmere Rovers v Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion v Gateshead
Arsenal v Hull City (1730 GMT), Aston Villa v Blackpool, Chelsea v Watford (1600 GMT), Dover Athletic v Crystal Palace (1300 GMT), Manchester City v Sheffield Wednesday, Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield United (1300 GMT), Southampton v Ipswich Town, Stoke City v Wrexham, Sunderland v Leeds United (1300 GMT), Yeovil Town v Manchester United (1530 GMT)
AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool (1955 GMT), Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur (1945 GMT)
Tuesday (1945 GMT):
Everton v West Ham United