With progress being made on both the League and cup fronts under Pardew this season, the first year of the new era was shaping up to be a special one anyway. That was before Saints were drawn to host Pompey in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Matches don't come much bigger than this. It will be nearly four years to the day since the sides last met, when a weary and relegation-destined Saints travelled to Fratton Park for a 4-1 humiliation that helped seal their fate. In the four years since Pompey have clung on to their top flight status and won the FA cup, while Saints have succumbed to another relegation and come close to going out of existence. But despite the gulf that now exists between the teams, Saints will be the club that goes into February's behemoth clash in rosier health.
Portsmouth lie bottom of the Premier League, crippled by debts that have led to their TV money being requisitioned by football bosses to pay off fees. Mystery surrounds their owner, who fans rarely see or hear from, and the world of football has been transfixed by the notion that a top flight club could go out of business this year. The favourite is Portsmouth. Without Harry Redknapp, who for years had the midas touch down the road, relegation seems almost certain. The tie could not have come at a juicier time, with Saints coming out of a period of crisis and Portsmouth going into one.
A full house at St Marys is not in doubt. However, a element of realism is required. Despite the gulf in confidence, there will be two divisions-worth of difference between the teams and being beaten on our own patch remains a real possibility. Whatever happens though, the atmosphere will be irresistable and with only Chelsea of the big four remaining in the draw, Saints should have their eyes on further cup progress. The tie is due to be played on the weekend of the 13/14 February - get your ticket now.
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