Even though the FA cup has lost some of it’s magic over the last decade and a half, that doesn’t make the 3rd round Saturday any less of a landmark weekend in any football season. Particularly for the minnows who sweat blood and tears to make it this far and earn a chance to mix it with the big boys. Try telling little Eastleigh that the FA cup isn’t important when they entertain Bolton Wanderers today.
Shame on any team who do not do their utmost best to be lifting the cup under the Wembley Arch in May.
The draw has been kind to the teams at the top of the Premier League this year, apart from that Tottenham and Leicester play each other in one of 6 all premiership ties.
TV Scheduling has meant the 3rd round is already underway, Liverpool (reserves or otherwise) stinking the place out as usual scraping a draw at Exeter. An Anfield replay under the lights for the League two side so close to extinction less than a decade ago is an example of why this cup is so important to English Football.
It’s hard to predict results in the FA cup early rounds, with no idea who is going to field weakened sides. The last 3 years particularly have seen the Premier League sides not have things so easy compared to before when playing weakened teams. That has been in the case in the League cup also.
Hard to predict the cup winner as well without knowing what future draws may bring but my tip for the cup is Arsenal. Capable of beating anyone at home and anyone except Stoke away ?, who would dismiss them becoming the first side to win 3 in a row since Blackburn in the late 1800’s. This cup has been kind to Arsene Wenger over the years, he’s won it an impressive 6 times and a fortuitous shootout win against Wigan in the Semi Final in 2015 on the way to cup victory, I’m certain kept him his job and the faith of his staunchest supporters.
As a dark horse I like the idea of Everton. They often fall early but at the same time are capable of going all the way as they did in 1995, finalists also in 2010 and a good run in 2012 where they made the semi finals. Roberto Martinez won’t be taking this cup lightly given his history in it and with an exciting side including the best striker in the country right now for me, why would they be worth an each-way flutter.
Back to today and the 3rd round and the potential upset hunt.
Bolton and Villa losing games wouldn’t constitute an upset right now, but looking at the opposition surely they’ll be getting through the ties away at Eastleigh and Wycombe respectively. I’ll be expecting Villa to be playing full strength to try and kick start something in their awful season. Of the two I think Bolton have the most to worry about, Eastleighs 5000 capacity stadium won’t be the most welcoming place to play football.
Manchester United will have to be weary of Sheffield United who have had great joy in both cup competitions over the last 3 seasons and a weakened team by Van Gaal would mean big trouble for the beleaguered Dutchman. Surely he won’t take no chances.
So my punt for the for upset is going to Birmimgham City beating Bournemouth. I’m not sure the cherries will be going full strength especially given their chances of avoiding relegation have taken a boost in the last month and their focus may be elsewhere. Birmingham can take advantage and knock out the Premiership side.
So there we go, my Fa Cup 3rd round preview.
Each Way: Everton
3rd Round Upset candidates: Eastleigh, Birmingham City.
Whatever happens there will no doubt be some of the old cup magic.
Who do you think will win the FA cup?