Tottenham Hotspur’s revitalised striker Emmanuel Adebayor could miss the tie of the FA Cup third round at former club Arsenal on Saturday after being carried off on a stretcher during Spurs’ 2-1 win at Manchester United on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Togo international, described as “unstoppable” by new Spurs manager Tim Sherwood after scoring the opening goal at Old Trafford, came off after 70 minutes, “needing ice on every part of his body” according to his boss afterwards.
The match at the Emirates between the two fierce north London rivals is one of five all-Premier League ties on what is usually one of the most exciting and dramatic days in the English season.
The others see Newcastle United against Cardiff City, Norwich City against Fulham, West Bromwich Albion against Crystal Palace and Manchester United hosting Swansea City. Cup holders Wigan Athletic, who became the first side to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season when they shocked Manchester City in last May’s final, are at home to League One (third tier) MK Dons.
Manchester City, second behind Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, make the short trip to Championship side Blackburn Rovers, while Chelsea, who have won the FA Cup five times in the last 14 years, start their quest for another honour at promotion-chasing Championship side Derby County.
Roberto Martinez, who led Wigan to their unlikely triumph last season before becoming Everton’s manager, starts his quest to become only the third manager to win the trophy with two different clubs when Everton play Queens Park Rangers at Goodison Park.
No one has achieved that feat since Billy Walker steered Nottingham Forest to glory in 1959 having previously won it with Sheffield Wednesday in 1935. Herbert Chapman won the trophy with Arsenal and Huddersfield Town.
Liverpool again face League One Oldham Athletic, who stunned the seven times winners with a shock 3-2 win in the fourth round a year ago.
Sunday’s match has an added poignancy too following the death of former Oldham and Liverpool player Wayne Harrison, aged 46 on Christmas Day.
Liverpool made Harrison the most expensive teenager in the world when they signed him as a 17-year-old from Oldham for £250,000 in 1984 but following one injury after another he never played a first team game for them, quit the game, and worked as a van driver before succumbing to pancreatic cancer.
Tales of the past will also be in the air at Bolton where Blackpool are the visitors, evoking memories of the famous 1953 final when Stanley Matthews inspired Blackpool to a 4-3 win with a hat-trick from Stan Mortensen after they trailed 3-1 with 22 minutes to go.
Saturday’s FA Cup clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and Spurs is their first in the competition since Arsenal triumphed 2-1 in a 2001 semi-final at Old Trafford.
And although the two clubs have played each other over 170 times, they have only met five times in the FA Cup, starting with Arsenal’s 3-0 victory in the third round in 1949, which Spurs avenged at the same stage in 1982.
Their two other meetings were also semi-finals with Spurs winning in 1991 and Arsenal in 1993.
Spurs go into the tie boosted by their win at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day as Sherwood has overseen a quick turnaround in fortune.
His recall of the previously-overlooked Adebayor looks an inspired move as the rangy forward has scored four goals in five games and added a much-needed cutting edge to the side’s previously misfiring attack as well as forging an immediate partnership with Spaniard Roberto Soldado.
However, league leaders Arsenal still start as favourites.
They may have laboured to a 2-0 win over Cardiff City on Wednesday, but Arsene Wenger’s men are playing with a self-confidence and conviction that has been missing in recent years.
Although they are likely to be without injured strikers Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner, who damaged his ankle scoring the opener against Cardiff, Arsenal have lost only once at home to Spurs in the last 21 years in all competitions and beat them 1-0 in a Premier League match on their last visit in September.