Sunderland handed Bolton test in the FA Cup

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SUNDERLAND will make the trip to Championship outfit Bolton Wanderers in the third round of the FA Cup.

The Black Cats were yesterday handed an away tie at the Reebok Stadium, almost certain to be played on Saturday, January 5, as they begin their campaign in this season’s cup competition.

Although Bolton have endured a tough transition to life in the second tier after last season’s relegation, it will still prove a test for the Black Cats.

New boss Dougie Freedman only suffered his first defeat as Bolton manager on Saturday after the 18th-placed Trotters were hit by a late comeback from struggling Ipswich.

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill said: “The Bolton game is still a long way off, but when it comes around, I’ll be very much looking forward to it.”

The Wearsiders have won on their last three trips to the Reebok, in each of the last three seasons. The most recent came in October, 2011 – a 2-0 success which was Steve Bruce’s final win as Sunderland manager.

The Black Cats beat Bolton 2-1 at home in the FA Cup third round four seasons ago, and also progressed at the same stage in 2002/03, winning 2-0 at home after a 1-1 away draw.

In all, the clubs have been drawn together six times, with Sunderland progressing on five occasions.

Bolton’s only victory was a 1-0 success at Roker Park in 1980.

H Rafael Benitez and Chelsea will both be hoping the FA Cup will be kind to them when they resume their own love affairs with the competition at Southampton next month.

The third-round draw pitted the Champions League winners – who visit Sunderland in the league on Saturday – against Nigel Adkins’ Saints over the weekend of January 5 and 6, and both club and manager will be hoping the headlines surrounding them are happier ones by then.

Benitez has endured a miserable first 11 days in the job since replacing Roberto Di Matteo last month, with a number of fans voicing their opposition to his appointment and only two points taken from the first nine on offer as the Blues slumped to a 3-1 loss at West Ham yesterday.

The Spaniard has FA Cup pedigree though, having won it with Liverpool in 2006, while Chelsea will be starting their defence of a trophy they have won four out of the last six seasons.

They have not faced Southampton yet this season – the clubs were due to meet on December 15 but Chelsea will be in Japan taking part in the World Club Cup.

Perhaps the most attractive all-Premier League tie comes at Upton Park, though, where West Ham will meet 11-time winners Manchester United.

The two met in the league just four days ago, the Red Devils winning 1-0, but the two have enjoyed many memorable duels over the years, particularly when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal to knock Sir Alex Ferguson’s men out in 2001.

The draw also threw up a repeat of the 1987 final between Tottenham and Coventry. The Sky Blues famously beat Spurs 3-2 after extra-time at the old Wembley, a win which included a stunning Keith Houchen diving header.

Newcastle have the chance to avenge last season’s loss to Brighton, Aston Villa are at home to Ipswich and Manchester City take on Watford, but Liverpool may not be relishing their tie.

Brendan Rodgers’ men must head to Lincoln or Mansfield, both Conference sides, who drew 3-3 on Saturday.