English football’s greatest cup competition returns this weekend, as the top teams from the domestic game enter the tournament for the first time this year, in the F.A Cup Third Round.
Amongst the new entrants at this stage are current holders Wigan Athletic, last season’s finalists Manchester City and the rest of the teams from both the Barclays Premier League and the Sky Bet Championship.
The tournament, the oldest round robin competition in all of football, often captures the imagination of the nation as it gives the opportunity of entry to teams in the game from the tenth league tier of English football, right through to the glamorous names such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Historically the competition has produced many memorable moments where heavyweights have been toppled by lower league opposition, and there are several teams still in the mix looking to make their mark on this season’s competition. Success in the cup can potentially produce enough revenue to keep smaller clubs in business for many years to come, as well as provide unique moments and fixtures for thousands of fans across the country.
Amongst the lowest ranked teams left in the third round, three teams from the fifth tier of English football can look forward to home ties against higher league opposition. All three teams play this season in the Blue Square Premier Division, and will look to advance through to round four. Kidderminster Harriers play host to high flying League One outfit Peterborough United, Grimsby Town welcome Huddersfield Town from the Championship and Macclesfield Town also face Championship opposition in the form of Sheffield Wednesday.
The third round has also produced five all Premier League ties, with particular interest in the biggest tie of the round between ten time F.A Cup winners Arsenal, and their North London compatriots Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal top the Premier League going in to the New Year, following their 1-0 win at Newcastle United on Sunday, while Tottenham are enjoying something of a resurgence under new manager Tim Sherwood. They take part in the televised game on Saturday vying for a place in the fourth round, and whoever progresses will be right amongst the favourites to win the competition.
Manchester United welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford on Sunday, and David Moyes will lead United into the tournament for the first time. Although the all time record holders with 11 wins, United are looking for their first F.A Cup win since 2004. Moyes has the perfect opportunity to lay claim to his first trophy as Manchester United manager with a lengthy cup run, yet will have to first advance past last season’s League Cup winners.
Cardiff City make a trip north to play Newcastle United, Fulham travel to Norwich City and West Brom meet Crystal Palace in the remaining three all Premier League fixtures, as the competition whittles down to 32 teams from the 64 that started in the third round.
The romance of the F.A Cup is a phrase regularly used for describing the dramatic wins for smaller clubs against their much favoured opponents, and last season’s final has historically fit into the romantic category of the tournament’s history. Wigan Athletic scored a late winning goal against super rich Manchester City to win their first F.A Cup in the competition’s 133 year history. Wigan will look to defend their crown and move into the fourth round of this season’s tournament, as their home draw with MK Dons and a recent upturn in form makes them favourites to progress in their tie.
Amongst other featured ties are Blackburn Rovers versus Manchester City, Derby County hosting Chelsea and Liverpool welcoming Oldham Athletic to Anfield. All ties take place from the weekend commencing Saturday, January 4th, and the tournament is perfectly set up to begin capturing the imagination of fans once again.
What are the standout ties of the F.A Cup Third Round? Who are the favourites to win the competition?