Thursday, 3 January 2013

FA Cup Third Round: Ones to watch

This coming weekend sees one of the favourite dates in the football calendar, as the third round of the FA Cup comes to our screens. Below are some of the key ties that were drawn, and games you should keep a look out on.

#1 Mansfield Town v Liverpool
The tie of the round sees Liverpool travel to Blue Square Premier League side Mansfield. The non-league side are one of four sides from outside the football league still in the competition. The side from Nottinghamshire have had a relatively simple route through to the third round dispatching of fellow non-league sides Slough and Lincoln City. Mansfield currently sit ninth in the Blue Square Premier and have had a quiet period during Christmas having seen two of their four games postponed due to the weather. They come up against runners up of the competition last season Liverpool who are currently in excellent form winning three of their four games over the winter period. Brendan Rogers men will be strong favourites to win the game which should see new man Daniel Sturridge make his first appearance for the club. With tough fixtures to come for the Merseyside club, Rogers will look to rest some of his names, giving youngsters, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan a run out.
Prediction: Mansfield Town 0-3 Liverpool
#2 West Ham Utd v Man Utd
The last time these two teams met in this competition, Man United ran out comfortable 6-0 winners at Old Trafford back in 2003. Despite this, the Hammers will feel there is a slight chance of an upset on the cards at Upton Park come Saturday evening. The two teams also met in the competition back in 2001 where a Paolo Di Canio goal was enough for his side to progress beating United at Old Trafford. The potential arrival of Joe Cole this week may see the former Hammer play having struggled to play much football over the last few years whilst at Liverpool. Opponents United, are currently flying at the top of the league thanks to new signing Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman has netted an impressive 19 goals in all competitions and has been the obvious difference between his side and rivals Manchester City.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Man United
#3 Brighton & HA v Newcastle Utd
These two sides once again meet each other in the competition having played against each other in last years fourth round. The home side came out shock winners beating the Premier League side 1-0 at the Amex Stadium. Mike Williamson's own goal was enough for the home side to progress to the fifth round. Brighton, are currently ninth in the Championship, three points from a play off place and registered their first win on New Years Day since the end of November with a 3-0 away success at Ipswich. Newcastle will want to avoid a repeat of last years game between the two. Alan Pardew's side's defeat to Everton this week saw his team lose their fifth game in six. The departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea leaves Pardew with just Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi as options in attack. However it's defence where Newcastle need refreshing and with the January transfer window now open, Pardew has the opportunity to bring in fresh faces to boost his back four. 
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Newcastle United
#4 Middlesbrough v Hastings Utd
Hastings United, like Mansfield, are one of the four non-league sides remaining in the competition. The side from Sussex are the lowest ranked team in the cup and play their games in the Ryman League Premier Division, three leagues from League Two. United overcame fellow non-league side Harrogate Town in the last round, beating them on penalties after the two sides matched each other in the first game and replay. They face a tough test as they travel to in form Middlesbrough. The Championship side currently sit in fourth place and enjoyed a successful Christmas period winning three out of four games. Tony Mowbray's men enjoyed a decent cup run in the Capital One Cup this season, which ended, after losing 1-0 to Swansea in the quarter finals. Despite suffering a number of injuries to his side, Mowbray's men will surely have too much for the Ryman side on Saturday. 
Prediction: Middlesbrough 4-0 Hastings United
#5 Luton Town v Wolves
Luton go into the third round as the highest ranked non-league side in the competition. Despite coming desperately close to promotion to the football league last season. Luton have had a mixed season so far, and find themselves in the final play off place in the conference. Like Mansfield, Luton have also had a relatively simple passage through to the third round despatching of fellow non-league sides Nuneaton and Dorchester. Visitors for Luton come in the form of Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Championship side have struggled so far this season after suffering relegation from the Premier League last year. Manager Stale Solbakken has become under increasing pressure over the last month as his side slipped to 18th in the league just six points from the relegation zone. Recent home defeats to Ipswich and Peterborough United are increasing the pressure for him to be sacked. Despite the poor league form, the quality and experience in the Wolves squad should see them safely though, but as always with the FA Cup, Luton may cause a potential upset on the day. 
Prediction: Luton Town 1-2 Wolves
#6 Tottenham Hotspur v Coventry City
The last and only time Coventry City won this competition, was against Spurs back in 1987. An extra time own goal from Tottenham's Gary Mabbutt gave the Sky Blues a day to remember at Wembley for the club and their fans. Since that memorable day, the two sides have rarely met since Coventry's decline into the Football League. The last meeting between the sides came back in 2003 where Spurs beat City 3-0 in the League Cup. Coventry, relegated from the Championship last season, have had a mixed season and sit mid table in League One, five points from the play off's. They have only lost twice in their last ten league games and with the goals from striker David McGoldrick, the Sky Blues will look to challenge for a play off spot in the second half of the season. Tottenham will go into the game as the favourites and have enjoyed a good run of their own of late in the league.  One defeat in nine league games has seen AVB's men rise to third in the league. The goals from Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe have been very important as Spurs look to challenge for a top four finish. 
Prediction: Spurs 3-1 Coventry City
#7 Cheltenham Town v Everton
The final tie of the round is between Cheltenham and Everton as they battle it out on Monday night in front of the ESPN cameras. The League Two side progressed to the third round having beaten Hereford over two games in the second round. Currently sitting in the play off's, Cheltenham have only won one of their last four league games, so an FA Cup distraction has come at the perfect time for Mark Yates' men. They reached the third round of the cup last season, facing Tottenham at White Hart Lane where they were comfortably dispatched 3-0. Everton will go into the game as strong favourites and will hope for a healthy scoreline as they continue their good form of late. One defeat in their last eight league games has seen the Toffee's reach fifth place and a constant threat to the top four. Despite only scoring six times in all competitions, striker Nikica Jelavic has been well supported from Marouane Fellaini who has hit the net eight times this season. 
Prediction: Cheltenham 0-2 Everton

...and the rest!

Aldershot v Rotherham (Prediction 1-2)
Aston Villa v Ipswich Town (Prediction 2-0)
Barnsley v Burnley (Predcition 1-2)
Blackburn v Bristol City (Prediction 3-0)
Bolton v Sunderland (Prediction 1-1)
Charlton v Huddersfield (Prediction 2-0)
Crawley Town v Reading (Prediction 1-2)
Crystal Palace v Stoke City (Prediction 2-2)
Derby v Tranmere (Prediction 2-1)
Fulham v Blackpool (Prediction: 3-1)
Hull v Leyton Orient (Prediction 3-0)
Leeds v Birmingham (Prediction 1-1)
Leicester v Burton Albion (Prediction 4-0)
Macclesfield v Cardiff City (Prediction 0-2)
Man City v Watford (Prediction 4-0)
Millwall v Preston (Prediction 1-1)
Notts Forest v Oldham (Prediction 2-1)
Oxford Utd v Sheffield Utd (Prediction 0-2)
Peterborough Utd v Norwich City (Prediction 1-3)
QPR v West Brom (Prediction 1-1)
Sheff Wed v MK Dons (Prediction 1-2)
Southampton v Chelsea (Prediction 1-0)
Southend v Brentford (Prediction 1-1)
Wigan v Bournemouth (Prediction 2-0)
Swansea v Arsenal (Prediction 2-1)

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