The always eagerly-awaited third round of the FA Cup as usual provides an intriguing selection of games between sides from opposite ends of the footballing spectrum. There are four non-league sides still in the competition and all will no doubt fancy their chances of causing the upset of the round. One game seems to tower above all others, however, being as it involves the top two sides in the country squaring off against each other.
Here is our pick of the matches:
LIVERPOOL v OLDHAM ATHLETIC 20:00, Anfield (Friday)
The third round of the cup kicks off tonight with the proverbial David versus Goliath encounter at Anfield. Liverpool’s home form has held them back this season but they should be confident of brushing aside Oldham, who currently sit 14th in League One.
Unlike their manager, former Leicester and Blackburn striker Paul Dickov, the majority of the Oldham line-up will have scarcely faced top flight opposition before and are likely to find the step up in quality a little hot to handle.
Liverpool: Doni; Enrique, Agger, Carragher, Kelly; Henderson, Maxi, Spearing, Adam, Carroll, Bellamy
Oldham – Cisak; Clarke, Diamond, Black, Taylor, Furman, Lee, Adeyemi, Morais, Smith, Simpson
Recent form: Liverpool – WWDDWL; Oldham – LWDLWD
BIRMINGHAM CITY v WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 12:30, St. Andrew’s (Saturday)
Two West Midlands rivals renew acquaintances in a derby that may be more fiery than normal on account of the fact Wolves escaped relegation from the Premier League last season at the expense of Birmingham.
The Blues have had a disappointing first half of the season in the Championship, but they remain unbeaten at home and this game should bring the best out in them.
Birmingham – Myhill; Murphy, Caldwell, Ridgewell, Davies, Burke, N’Daw, Beausejour, Fahey, King, Zigic
Wolves – Hennessey; Elokobi, Johnson, Berra, Foley, Henry, Hunt, Frimpong, Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher
Recent form: Birmingham – WWLDWD; Wolves – LLDDDL
CRAWLEY TOWN v BRISTOL CITY 15:00, The Broadfield Stadium
League Two leaders Crawley will be one of the most hotly tipped underdogs for victory, such is their strong form and the contrasting dismal form of Bristol City. Indeed it’s quite feasible the two sides could be playing in the same division next season. That said, City have won their last two, including a morale-boosting and unexpected win at Championship leaders Southampton.
Crawley of course will be doing their utmost to repeat their heroics of last season when they reached the fifth round before bowing out by only a single goal at Manchester United.
Crawley – Shearer; Howell, Mills, McFadzean, Davis, Akpan, Torres, Simpson, Hunt, Akinde, Barnett
City – James; Nyatanga, Carey, McGivern, Elliott, Skuse, Kilkenny, Adomah, Pearson, Maynard, Pitman
Recent form: Crawley – WWDLWD; City – LLDLWW
EVERTON v TAMWORTH 15:00, Goodison Park
Blue Square Bet Conference Premier outfit Tamworth face the game of their lives against a side currently 96 league places above them in the English football standings. A win would surely rank among the greatest shocks in the cup’s history.
Marcus Law’s Staffordshire minnows have done well to even make it this far and have never previously gone beyond the third round, nor played a competitive fixture against top tier opposition.
Everton – Mucha; Hibbert, Baines, Heitinga, Jagielka, Drenthe, Neville, Osman, Rodwell, Saha, Donovan
Tamworth – Collister; Tait, Habergham, Francis, Kanyuka, Courtney, Wilson, Gudger, Barrow, Sharif, Christie
Recent form: Everton – LDWDWL; Tamworth – WLLLLD
MACCLESFIELD TOWN v BOLTON WANDERERS 15:00, Moss Rose
While Bolton’s away form is decidedly better than their wretched home form this season, nobody would be too surprised if League Two Macclesfield pulled off an upset here. Owen Coyle is likely to rest several first teamers and there can be no doubt that the club’s sole target this season is simply to stave off relegation from the Premier League. Moreover Macclefield ran their North West rivals close earlier this season in the League Cup at the Reebok.
Macclesfield – Veiga, Bateson, Tremarco, Brown, Diagne, Brisley, Daniel, Mendy, Wedgebury, Hamshaw, Donnelly
Bolton – Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Robinson, Knight, Wheater, Muamba, Tuncay, M. Davies, Pratley, K. Davies, Ngog
Recent form: Macclesfield – DWLDWL; Bolton – LLWLDW
BRISTOL ROVERS v ASTON VILLA 17:30, The Memorial Stadium
Rovers, struggling at the bottom of League Two, might have really fancied their chances of causing a giantkilling in this match prior to Villa’s stunning victory at Chelsea on New Year’s Eve. They still might, considering the struggles Villa have generally had scoring goals away from home this season and being live in front of the TV cameras provides an excellent opportunity for the home side. It may prove just beyond them, however.
Rovers – Poke; Downes, Sawyer, Woodards, Bolger, Stanley, Dorman, Carayol, Richards, Harrold, Zebroski
Villa – Guzan; Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Cuellar, Ireland, N’Zogbia, Petrov, Clark, Bent, Agbonlahor
Recent form: Rovers – WDLLLL; Villa – WLLDWL
MANCHESTER CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED 13:00, The Etihad Stadium (Sunday)
Undoubtedly the most eye-catching fixture of the third round draw sees a repeat of last season’s semi-final and a clash between the top two sides in the country, never mind their city rivalry. United go into it the game in their worst form of the season, having suffered successive defeats and conceding three goals in each game.
City are unsurprisingly strong favourites in the first meeting of the sides since City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October. Roberto Mancini’s men are, however, weakened by the suspension of Gareth Barry and loss of the Toure brothers to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Man City – Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Kolarov, Savic, Milner, Johnson, Silva, De Jong, Dzeko, Aguero
Man United – De Gea; Evra, Jones, Ferdinand, Rafael, Anderson, Park, Carrick, Nani, Valencia, Rooney
Recent form: Man City – LWWDLW; Man United – WWWWLL
ARSENAL v LEEDS UNITED 19:45, The Emirates (Monday)
A repeat of a fixture from the same stage of last season’s competition when Arsenal needed a replay to see off Simon Grayson’s side – only earned via a last minute equaliser from Cesc Fabregas.
Arsene Wenger’s men will therefore not underestimate Leeds and the Gunners have their excellent record of not exiting at the third round stage since 1996 to uphold.
Arsenal – Almunia; Mertesacker, Squillaci, Koscielny, Coquelin, Rosicky, Ramsey, Song, Gervinho, Arshavin, Chamakh
Leeds – Lonergan, Bruce, Sam, White, O’Dea, Clayton, Pugh, Townsend, Thompson, Becchio, Nunez
Recent form: Arsenal – WLWDWL; Leeds – WDLLLW
BEST OF THE REST
Tamworth are joined in the third round by fellow non-league sides Wrexham, Fleetwood Town and Salisbury. Conference Premier leaders Wrexham travel to Gus Poyet’s Championship promotion chasers Brighton, and Fleetwood, the Welsh side’s main rivals for automatic promotion to the football league, have a home game with Ian Holloway’s Blackpool.
Salisbury, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition – hailing from the Conference South – face a tough tie at Sheffield United, who are currently going strong in League One.
In the pick of the other fixtures, League Two outfit Cheltenham face a daunting visit to Tottenham, last year’s runners-up Stoke go to Gillingham, several-time winners in recent years Chelsea play Portsmouth at home and there is an all-Premier League clash between Newcastle and Blackburn at St. James’ Park.
Tags: Everton, FA Cup, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Oldham Athletic, Tamworth