It’s that time of year again! The FA Cup 3rd round has come around with squads at their weakest after playing 4 Premier League fixtures in 11 days. After the luxury of two whole days off, it’s time for the world’s oldest cup competition to be a blight on everybody’s season once again.
It’s hardly surprising the early rounds of the cup are not high on the agenda coming off the back of such a busy schedule. The financial rewards are just not worth the risk to some of the Premier League’s top assets so once again we can expect to see some forgotten players in action this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the FA Cup and the third round has always been a day I look forward to. I think it’s because as a kid you were on a come down after Christmas, New Year and going back to school and 3rd round day was always there as a pick me up. It’s more of a weekend now with games spread out which I don’t think helps that much but is apparently useful overseas. Here we’ll preview each of the 20 Premier League clubs and pick out a lesser spotted player you might get to see this weekend.
As a side note, all the kick-off times are one minute later than you might expect as part of mental health awareness. I think it’s a good initiative to take that extra minute to think of others, there’s a limit to what they can actually do to raise awareness but I think this is a decent start.
Saturday (12:31 pm kickoff)
Rochdale vs Newcastle (BT Sport)
The first potential giant killing of the weekend sees Newcastle travel to the north-west. Rochdale are 19th in League One but have a good pedigree in recent years so I can see why BT have picked this up. Newcastle don’t have that many goals in the team and are struggling with a lot of injuries. This one has upset written all over it.
You might see…Steve Bruce has actually used every member of his 25 man squad but there’s a chance Ki Seung-Yeung will add to his two appearances so far this season. Finding any 11 fit players could be a struggle.
Burnley vs Peterborough
Peterborough are known for their attacking style but their form has plummeted over Christmas and Burnley will no doubt batter them with physicality. Sean Dyche’s men don’t score loads of goals but in Wood, Barnes & Rodriguez there are goal scorers in the team if given the chances.
You might see…Joe Hart! Limited to a single league cup appearance so far, this might be another cup opportunity.
Saturday (15:01 kickoffs)
Brighton vs Sheffield Wednesday
Garry Monk had done a good job with Sheffield Wednesday but two recent defeats have dented their progress. Brighton meanwhile are in the middle of a footballing “process” where they have turned into a decent footballing side on their day. Even with some expected changes, Brighton now have some excellent youth prospects who have the energy to push Brighton in round 4.
You might see…Leon Balogun. The Nigerian has played only one league cup tie this season so, injuries permitting, he might get a run-out here.
Fulham vs Aston Villa
The battle of the big spenders. It ended badly for Fulham and it’s not looking too clever for Aston Villa right now. With a League Cup semi-final to come for Villa, I don’t think Dean Smith will lose too much sleep if they go out here, which I think they will.
You might see…James Chester. The centre half has been injured for most of the season but was able to play in the League Cup quarter-final and should add another appearance here.
Southampton vs Huddersfield
Huddersfield have made steady progress under Danny Cowley but still, sit 20th in the Championship with work to do. Southampton meanwhile are just about above the trapdoor in the Premier League and to be quite honest, neither team will care too much about this. Southampton should win but I’d assume Danny Ings will be wrapped up in cotton wool.
You might see…Ralph Hasenhüttl is another manager who has rotated his squad considerably throughout the season. Hopefully, Michael Obafemi is given another chance after his great goal at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.
Preston vs Norwich
Alex Neil welcomes his former club to Deepdale and they may yet swap divisions next season. Preston’s form has fallen away a bit recently and they sit just outside the playoffs whilst Norwich have struggled for wins in the top flight. Much like the previous fixture I don’t think either team will be too heartbroken to lose. I’m going for Norwich just because they only play one way and fortune favours the brave.
You might see…Pukki is bound to be rested so Dennis Srbeny and Josip Drmic should get the chance to add to their solitary Canaries goals.
Watford vs Tranmere
Tranmere’s rise back up the leagues has been a good news story in recent times but I suspect this will be a step too far. Watford are improved under Nigel Pearson and I think the two-division gap will be too large to bridge.
You might see…the man with the best name for cup football, Isaac Success. The Nigerian has been a regular for Watford in cup football but has struggled to make a league appearance.
Saturday (17:31 kickoff)
Bournemouth vs Luton
Both teams to score anyone? Bournemouth have lost their way, partly down to injuries but also down to a stubborn refusal to defend. Luton have shipped 53 goals in the Championship so if there’s ever the opportunity for Dominic Solanke to finally get off the mark for Bournemouth, it’s in this fixture. The Cherries should have too much for leaky Luton.
You might see…the perennially injured Junior Stanislas made his first appearance of the season over Christmas so it will be hoped he can get more minutes under his belt here.
Leicester vs Wigan
Leicester are one of the success stories of the season, flying high in the Premier League whilst Wigan prop up the Championship. Brendan Rodgers made nine changes and still won away at West Ham so regardless of the side he picks here, I can only see one winner. And it isn’t Wigan.
You might see… there’s a few who haven’t seen any pitch time for Leicester. Daniel Amartey seems very out of favour and set to leave whilst Matty James has been rehabbing forever though is approaching a return – extra points if you spot him.
Wolves vs Man Utd (BT Sport)
Everyone is enjoying watching Wolves at the moment because there’s a real risk Adama Traore will run his opposite number over. Fingers crossed it is Ashley Young here. Man Utd’s squad is fairly youthful and Solskjaer might not need to rest too many. Both sides are in the Europa League which brings it’s own scheduling challenges but Wolves made so many changes for their game at Anfield and still nearly won. This is a very intriguing tie so I’ll sit on the fence and say it’ll go to a replay.
You might see…we’ve seen most of both squads thanks to the Europa League so we might have to settle for a pair of sub goalkeepers. Step forward, John Ruddy and Sergio Romero.
Man City vs Port Vale
It’ll be a nice day out for Port Vale. I can’t offer you any more hope than that. Home win.
You might see…Pep actually play some youth players, or if we’re lucky the people’s champion Scott Carson.
Sunday (14.01 kickoff)
Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest
It’s not like Chelsea to draw lower league opposition at home. They’ll win easily, they always do, although their home form has been sketchy at best. Forest have been very good in the Championship and sit 5th but this might be too much for them.
You might see…This is the type of game Pedro will turn up for. He’ll dive, score a good goal and celebrate like it’s the Champions League final.
Middlesbrough vs Tottenham (BT Sport)
This would be a banana skin on paper but Middlesbrough have been fairly awful all season. Former Spurs man Jonathan Woodgate finds himself in a battle to keep Boro in the Championship. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho is getting his feet under the table and Spurs should be in the 4th round draw come Monday night.
You might see…the alleged future of Spurs midfield (if Winks doesn’t work out) Oliver Skipp.
Sheff Utd vs Fylde
On paper, this is your classic David vs Goliath, Premier League vs non-league encounter. Sheff Utd have been far better than most people expected this season and with home advantage a cup shock is unlikely.
You might see…David McGoldrick score! He’s done everything but so far this season so maybe this can be his time.
Crystal Palace vs Derby
Roy Hodgson is down to the bare bones and there’s a chance Wayne Rooney can play for Derby. This all boils down to whether Roy risks Zaha or not. Derby have been pretty poor but Rooney could inspire them.
You might see…Roy seems dead against it but Victor Camarasa has been rotting on the bench for Palace for some time. He was quite good for Cardiff so maybe he’ll get a run out here.
Liverpool vs Everton (BBC One)
For the second time in three seasons, we’ve got a Merseyside derby treat in the FA Cup. Everton are under new management since the thrashing they took in December and Ancelotti should ensure there isn’t a repeat. Liverpool are a tough nut to crack though and even if the FA Cup is not a priority, they wouldn’t want to lose local pride. Home win.
You might see…if Ancelotti wants to use this game to look at his squad then this could be the latest comeback for Oumar Niasse. He’s managed only one sub appearance so far this season but I’m sure a loan to somewhere like Watford will be on the cards again soon enough.
Gillingham vs West Ham (BT Sport)
Ah, West Ham. Stop appointing David Moyes for once in your lives. Gillingham have the detestable Steve Evans in the dugout though so that’ll help. It would be funny if West Ham lose this just because, you know, Moyesy. Gillingham have a chance of an upset especially if the team is rotated but will Moyes take that risk?
You might see…he’s been out for ages but Winston Reid is approaching a return. Remember him?
Monday (19:56 kickoff)
Arsenal vs Leeds (BBC One)
My only regret is that this is at Arsenal and not Leeds. Leeds are flying high in the Championship whereas Arsenal have been reduced to a midtable Premier League side. Arteta is in now but Arsenal have always been ones for giving youth a chance in these games, often to their detriment. Arteta can’t afford to heap more pressure on himself so I think he’ll go strong and win. Just.
You might see…don’t make me type it. Ok, fine. Konstantinos Mavropanos has only made one appearance for Arsenal this season despite all that Europa League fun. With Calum Chambers now out injured it might be time for the Greek to get his chance.
There we have it then, a thoroughly reasonable 3rd round draw but will it live up to expectations? I’ll see you for the 4th round but how many of the 20 Premier League teams will?