This weekend sees the entrance of the Premiership and Championship clubs in to the F.A. Cup as the worlds oldest domestic cup competition continues in its 128th year. It’s one of those weekends that gets football fans excited, throwing up all kinds of memories for fans of every club from every level of the domestic game. For fans of all clubs, the F.A. Cup offers us all the chance to dream that this could be our year.
This weekend the fans of Barrow, York City Luton Town and Forest Green Rovers will be bursting with pride as the take on league opposition. Disappointingly for the fan in me, only four non-league sides have made it through to the third round this season but there are still some tasty ties for this years game.
Stoke City, Sunderland, Southampton and Notts County will be the clubs trying to avoid the ignominy of a defeat to a non-league side, but with all three of the bigger clubs at home, I don’t think we’ll see any shocks in those particular ties. There are several ties that are eye opening for several reasons though and of those, Manchester United entertaining Leeds on Sunday is the pick of round. Leeds’ fall down the leagues has been spectacular, but they currently sit on top of Division One, looking certainties to return to the Championship.
It’ll be interesting to see how this resumption of the cross pennine rivalry will be played out, with no love love lost between either side. Of the top four sides in the Premiership, Arsenal certainly have the most difficult tie, with a London derby trip to West Ham United on Sunday as well. Chelsea and Liverpool should make light work of Watford and Reading respectively whilst Tottenham should win easily against Peterborough United.
Overall though, the chances of any Premiership clubs getting knocked out by lower league opponents look slim to be honest but there are a couple of tricky ties. Portsmouth will be hoping Coventry City won’t bring their recent good form to Fratton Park, whilst Birmingham City face a dangerous trip to Nottingham Forest. Manchester City visit Middlesbrough who have been bang out of form since they sacked Gareth Southgate but should be too strong.
Of the other recently promoted sides, Burnley and Wolves both face potential banana skin games at Milton Keynes Dons and Tranmere Rovers and may view the match as a chance to give secondary players a run out. Bolton Wanderers fans will probably be viewing the clash with Lincoln City, now managed by Blackburn Rovers old boy Chris Sutton, with renewed optimism following Gary Megson’s sacking earlier today.