HULL CITY will have to overcome their FA Cup nemesis after being drawn against Arsenal for the third consecutive season.
The fifth round will see the Tigers travel to the Emirates Stadium, while Leeds United – the only other club flying the flag for Yorkshire football in the last 16 – are also on the road at Watford.
Travelling to Premier League opposition is never easy in the Cup but Hull’s task looks the tougher of the two, not least because the Gunners beat City in the 2014 final and then repeated the trick a year ago in the third round en route to again lifting the trophy.
The tie will be played over February 19-22, which means it will take place amid an important period for both Hull City and Arsenal.
City’s trip to north London will be sandwiched between midweek clashes with Brighton & Hove Albion at home and Ipswich Town on the road.
The Gunners, meanwhile, have home games against Premier League leaders Leicester City and Barcelona in the Champions League either side of the Cup tie before then heading to Manchester United.
It means both managers look certain to rotate their squads, though Steve Bruce’s options will be cut slightly by loan duo Chuba Akpom – Saturday’s hat-trick hero in the 3-1 triumph at Bury –and Isaac Hayden being unable to face their parent club.
In contrast, Steve Evans is likely to send his full strength side to Vicarage Road for a tie that, while difficult, is far from unwinnable.
Watford progressed to the fifth round with a late winner at Nottingham Forest but a run of four defeats in six league outings since Christmas had dented confidence.
“We have not landed any of the big names and we are not at Elland Road so those are the downsides,” said Evans, about what will only be United’s second fifth-round tie in 13 years.
“But, on the upside, it is a game we can win. We will take thousands upon thousands of supporters with us and we will turn it into a proper Cup tie.
“I have got a lot of admiration for Watford and if we play them at their game, we will get beaten.
“Our supporters deserve something special in a season. They have not had a lot of great highlights.
“Getting out of League One, Simon Grayson did a wonderful job but it is not a highlight to a Leeds supporter in their life.”
Both Leeds and Hull will have to wait until after the television companies have selected their live broadcasts to learn when the respective ties will be played.
Chelsea hosting Manchester City is certain to be picked by the BBC or BT Sport along with Shrewsbury Town, conquerors of Sheffield Wednesday, taking on Manchester United, while Blackburn Rovers’ home tie against either Liverpool or West Ham United is also likely to be attractive.
The timing of the Cup ties, however, will be complicated by Louis van Gaal’s United being in Europa League action on Thursday February 18, meaning the Old Trafford club cannot play until the Sunday of fifth-round weekend at the earliest.
Chelsea are in Champions League action on February 16, Arsenal a week later and Manchester City on Wednesday, February 24.
Yesterday’s fifth-round draw was brought forward from its usual Monday night slot due to today marking the end of the transfer window.
Carlos Carvalhal’s Owls slipped out of the top six while in Cup action at the New Meadow courtesy of Birmingham City’s goalless draw at Bristol City but avoiding defeat against Burnley tomorrow at Hillsborough would be enough to reclaim a play-off place.
Keen to draw a line under his side’s 3-2 defeat at Shrewsbury, Carvalhal said: “Our focus can now be the Championship and we are ready to do a very good second half of the season.
“Let’s be ready for Tuesday. It is a very, very, very important game.”
Hull will have a keen interest in tomorrow’s Hillsborough clash, not least because Steve Bruce’s men travel to Turf Moor at the weekend.
Match reports and reaction: Pages 2-5