Villa, Leeds, Wolves and West Ham MUST play their best teams in FA Cup

DANNY MURPHY: Aston Villa, Leeds, Wolves and West Ham can become FA Cup legends this weekend but they MUST play their best teams

  • Aston Villa travel to Old Trafford on Monday to face Manchester United 
  • West Ham host Leeds at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon
  • David Moyes may rest some of his players with Hammers chasing top four spot
  • Fresh from beating Man United, Wolves welcome Sheffield United at Molineux  

Aston Villa, Leeds, Wolves and West Ham are traditional big clubs who haven’t won a major trophy between them for more than 25 years.

In that context, the FA Cup is particularly important, so they should all pick the strongest team available for their third-round ties this weekend.

These players and managers will go down in history if they can lift the cup. For Wolves and West Ham, you have to go all the way back to 1980 for their last trophy.

Steven Gerrard takes Aston Villa to Old Trafford in the final tie of the third round of the FA Cup

I was brought up on the FA Cup, not just watching on television but also going to Wembley for the 1986 final between Liverpool and Everton. 

As a player, I was furious when ‘rested’ by Roy Hodgson at Fulham for a replay against Bristol Rovers. We lost on penalties and, listening to the radio at home, I threw things across the room in a fit of anger.

I was privileged to win the trophy with Liverpool and even before then enjoyed some good cup runs with Crewe. I still have a picture of Vinnie Jones grabbing me around the throat when we played Wimbledon!

Financial priorities have changed in football since then, I appreciate that, and managers are under greater pressure than ever to stay in the Premier League and then try to qualify for Europe. 

David Moyes’ West Ham welcome Leeds at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon

With the Hammers chasing a top four spot Moyes may be tempted to rest Declan Rice

But I am still amazed to see weakened line-ups because, for most teams, the opportunity to win trophies is hard to come by. West Ham, at home to Leeds today, have the greatest dilemma of the clubs I’ve mentioned because they are chasing a top-four spot, are competing in the Europa League and have a Premier League game on Wednesday.

David Moyes will have to be careful but he understands the English game and I’m sure he would love to have a first trophy on his own CV, which he deserves for the career he’s had.

I would see the Leeds tie as a wonderful opportunity for West Ham and start as strong as I could. If players are fit, pick them. You can always substitute the likes of Declan Rice later if the game is going your way.

Leeds have injury issues and are running on a thin squad. But the incentive is still big enough to give the Cup a go. For Marcelo Bielsa to become the first Leeds manager since Howard Wilkinson to win a trophy would be celebrated for decades.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds are facing injury problems and the Argentine may rotate his squad

Wolves arrive into their tie fresh from beating Manchester United in the Premier League

It remains to be seen if Bruno Lage will opt for a full-strength XI against Sheffield United 

Wolves, at home to Sheffield United, are playing with a real swagger. They should go full strength, maintain the feelgood factor. It’s not as if they have any relegation worries.

Aston Villa have the toughest fixture on paper, away to Manchester United tomorrow. But knowing Steven Gerrard, he’ll consider it really important.

United are low on confidence and look fragile. I’d be surprised if Stevie doesn’t try to take advantage by naming a really strong team for Old Trafford.

Villa are on a high with the signing of Philippe Coutinho. He will raise standards and the other lads will be buzzing about having this Brazilian star from Barcelona coming in.

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