In a perfect world in which I had unlimited financial resources, or access to a Star Trek-inspired transporter, I’d be over in England at the end of the month trying to decide which FA Cup match I’d like to see.
The fourth round of the competition is set for the weekend of Jan. 29-31, and here’s a look at the draw:
Friday, Jan. 29
Derby County vs. Manchester United
Saturday, Jan. 30
Colchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
West Bromwich Albion vs. Peterborough United
Bolton Wanderers vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Burnley
Reading vs. Walsall
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City
Shrewsbury Town vs. Sheffield Wednesday
Nottingham Forest vs. Watford
Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City
Oxford United vs. Blackburn Rovers
Portsmouth vs. Bournemouth
Bury vs. Hull City
Liverpool vs. West Ham United
Sunday, Jan. 31
Carlisle United vs. Everton
Milton Keynes Dons vs. Chelsea
Now, there are some fine options here. I could easily rattle off 10. But the headline suggests I can only choose five, so let’s get to it:
5. Liverpool vs. West Ham — Now, having never been to any of these grounds, I think Anfield is a fine place to start. You get an all-Premier League matchup with West Ham, a stadium steeped in tradition and passionate fans that do this before kickoff:
Looks like a good time to me.
4. Arsenal vs. Burnley — I think if you plan an imaginary trip to England to watch soccer, you have to include at least one stop in London on your agenda. I would like to see the Emirates, even if the matchup isn’t the most appealing. As an added bonus, this feels like the sort of match I could get my wife to agree to attend. Too bad I can’t watch one at Highbury. It sounded like so much fun in Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch.”
3. Milton Keynes Dons vs. Chelsea — Google tells me that Stadium mk is about 55 miles north of London. I don’t know a thing about the area or the ground, but the prospect of watching two clubs that many fans in England hate is appealing.
2. Portsmouth vs. Bournemouth — As a newbie soccer fan, I read Chuck Culpepper’s “Bloody Confused.” In it, he shared his journey towards becoming a Portsmouth fan. I’ve had a soft spot for Pompey ever since. And who doesn’t love scrappy little Bournemouth?
1. Derby County vs. Manchester United — With one of the most popular clubs in the world visiting a place steeped in history, this would be my first stop. I watched Derby play quite a bit during its disastrous EPL run in the 2007-2008, and it’s in my nature to root for underdogs. How else can you explain the fact that, with the pick of the whole country, I became a Fulham supporter?