The Magic of the FA Cup Third Round Returns This Weekend
This weekend is a big one for many football teams, particularly those in the lower reaches hoping to gain a little national exposure, or perhaps a lucrative replay or draw in the next round. It is FA Cup Third Round weekend and that means the giantkillers to be are readying to take on teams from at least one, if not more divisions above them.
Given that many of the top teams in the Premier League and also the Championship, will routinely rest top players in the FA Cup nowadays, the Third Round has perhaps lost a little of its lustre, but there is no doubt that it is still a huge weekend for many teams, including those who have genuine hopes of reaching the FA Cup Final and possibly winning the trophy.
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The 32 matches are stretched out across the weeknd starting on Friday night with Tottenham, who face a tricky trip to Birkenhead to take on Tranmere Rovers, the renowned giant-killers of the 1990s. There’s the majority of games taking place on Saturday, followed by a handful more on Sunday and then the final game of the weekend takes place at Molineux on Monday night as Wolves face Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Third Round Preview
In addition to Friday night’s game there are some big games to look forward to at the weekend. Manchester United host Reading and Chelsea will face Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge in two eye-catching games on Saturday, although you would expect both the big boys in the Premier league to come through that game unscathed.
Arsenal face a trip to the seaside to take on Blackpool in what could be an interesting game if the wind picks up, however I would still expect even a reserve Arsenal side to claim the win and in truth, Unai Emery seems keen to play his strongest team as often as possible.
Manchester City have what looks like a comfortable home tie with Rotherham although Pep Guardiola may be tempted to pick some fringe players to give his first team squad a rest, as indeed I believe most of the top teams in the Premier League will do in these games.
The only all Premier League clash on Saturday or Sunday is the south coast derby between Bournemouth and Brighton, a rematch for the two teams who played in December and which saw Bournemouth run out 2-0 winners.
In terms of giantkilling, the biggest and most obvious one to me looks like the Derby County v Southampton game, which I feel Derby have a great chance in, and also the Bristol City v Huddersfield game, which sees the really out of form Huddersfield take on a Bristol City team who are in good shape and who defeated Manchester United in the Carabao Cup last season.
Watford face a tricky trip to Woking, Leicester face a similarly tough trip to Newport County while Everton face Lincoln City at Goodison Park although I would expect the top sides to come through these games.
FA Cup Winner
Let’s now take a look at which of the teams stand the best chance of landing the FA Cup outright this season by taking a look at the current odds for the winners of the tournament from bet365.
INSERT Bet365 ODDS
*Odds shown were correct as of 1pm on Wednesday 2nd January 2019 courtesy of bet365
As you can see, the top six teams in the Premier League are the clear front-runners in the betting and it is not difficult to see why. That’s because since 1996, just two teams outside of five of that top six (Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea) have won the FA Cup in addition to them (Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic).
Since 1996, Chelsea and Arsenal have racked up an incredible seven FA Cup wins between them, with Manchester United landing four victories, Liverpool two and Manchester City have lifted the cup once. Tottenham have not won the FA Cup since their 1991 victory over Nottingham Forest.
In terms of FA Cup success in history, the Big Six also have impressive records. Arsenal hold the record for the most number of wins (13) and the most number of appearances in the final (20) although they jointly hold this appearances record with Manchester United, who are the second most successful team in the competitions history with 12 wins.
Liverpool have made 14 appearances in the FA Cup Final but won just seven times, while Chelsea have eight wins from their 13 appearances and Manchester City five wins from 10 appearances. Tottenham have only made 9 appearances in an FA Cup Final, but have won all but one of those appearances (their only defeat in the 1987 Final to Coventry City).
As you can see, the top six in the Premier League do have extensive history in this competition and as such, it is hard not to pick one as the potential winner for this season.
FA Cup Outright Winner – Tottenham Hotspur – 8/1
For me, Spurs are the team to beat in the FA Cup this season. They have a tricky opener against Tranmere in the third round but I’d expect them to come through that and there’s no doubt that on their day, Spurs are capable of beating any team in the league, including any of their top six opponents.
The fact that Spurs also will play the rest of the season at Wembley is also key. If Spurs can reach the semifinals again this year, as they did last, I would expect them to be able to use that home advantage in a better way than they did against Manchester United in the semifinal last year. I think a year more experienced will help what is a relatively young Spurs side and as I have said previously, they have the talent to beat any team, home or away on their day.
Of course, they’ll require some luck, quality performances and perhaps a favourable draw to go all the way but that is true of any team chasing FA Cup glory this season.