This weekend sees one of the highlights of the football calendar. It’s the third round of the FA Cup, that special time of year that sees the minnows of the English game facing off against the big boys. It’s also the best weekend for sports broadcasters fond of the trite and well-worn football cliche. It is the ‘magic of the FA Cup’, after all. Ex-pros and pundits get to blather on and on about one of their favourite subjects… THE GIANT KILLING.
‘David Vs. Goliath’. That’s what it’s all about. That Biblical tale of the tiny lad with a slingshot taking down his seemingly unbeatable, enormous foe. In reality, of course, we rarely see Basingstoke Town going to Old Trafford and coming away victorious, but we do occasionally get a bit of an upset. This year’s ties may spring a few surprises. Then again, they may not. Still, let’s be hopeful. After all, we wouldn’t want to disappoint Garth Crooks, would we? Let’s see what shocks we could be in for this time around…
Here are some big games which could provide us with a shock. But we really can’t see it happening. Ties like:
– Manchester United Vs. Reading (12/1)
– Preston North End (8/1) Vs. Arsenal
– Liverpool Vs. Plymouth Argyle (14/1)
– Chelsea Vs. Peterborough United (12/1)
They really would be surprising giant slayings. But there are some real potential banana skins for the bigger sides this weekend. Here’s where we see a potential shock on the cards:
Bolton Wanderers Vs. Crystal Palace
Phil Parkinson has done a stellar job so far since leaving Bradford City for Bolton. They’re scrapping it out at the top end of League One alongside the likes of Parky’s old side, Scunthorpe and Sheffield United. And, at 4/1 at home to beat struggling Crystal Palace, they can’t be written off. Bolton’s Gary Madine likes a goal and their home form is immense – they’ve won TEN on the spin at the Macron.
Palace are two divisions above, of course. And boast a heady wealth of talent. But they’re in pretty darn poor shape. Big Sam’s arrival hasn’t produced the fillip the club were looking for as yet and morale is still low. Which is kind of understandable, given their two recent heart-breaking defeats to fellow Premier League strugglers Swansea.
Brentford Vs. Eastleigh
Eastleigh may only sit eleventh in the National League (that’s the Conference to most of us), but the south coast club do love a cup run. Two rounds ago, Ronnie Moore’s boys knocked out League One Swindon Town and they’ll be hoping to go one better this time out against Championship outfit Brentford. Their trip to West London will be overseen by new boss Martin Allen, who left League Two Barnet to join them a few weeks back.
Brentford are no slouches, but they’re about as inconsistent as it gets. A handsome win at St. Andrews in their last game will bhoy them, but a run of just two wins from nine before that makes 7/1 Eastleigh worth keeping an eye out for.
Cambridge United Vs. Leeds United
Under former Swansea boss Garry Monk, Leeds United are flying. A tricky start to his time at Elland Road behind him, his side lie third in the Championship’s form table. But since we’re talking form – League Two Cambridge sit top of their tier’s form table, with sixteen points from a possible eighteen of late.
3/1 for the hosts isn’t huge and Leeds aren’t likely to change their entire eleven for this and slouch about the Abbey Stadium on Monday night like they couldn’t care less, but it won’t be a straightforward victory for the Yorkshire mob.
Ipswich Town Vs. Lincoln City
Mick McCarthy’s done a pretty bang-up job with the Tractor Boys since he’s joined them. But that’s not stopped plenty of fans at Portman Road bemoaning the man and calling for his head. But with the budget made available to him? What’s he supposed to do? Those dissenters really could have something to complain about after the weekend, though. Lincoln City make the relatively short trip south to Suffolk and can be backed at 7/1 to win.
Sure, the Imps are non-league, but they’re one of the biggest teams to exist outside the top four divisions. And when you consider the crazy fact that Ipswich haven’t won an FA Cup tie since January 2010… Well, the National League leaders have got to be more than a little confident. Seven years without an FA Cup victory! Blimey. Maybe we can see why McCarthy’s not exactly the toast of the Town.
Wycombe Wanderers Vs. Stourbridge
Stourbridge. Most of us don’t even know where it is (apparently, it’s near Dudley). But they don’t mind that. The Glassboys are happy to do their work under the radar. Though their exploits in the cup over the past few seasons are getting them noticed. ‘The new non-league kings of the FA Cup’ they’re being touted as by some and it’s not difficult to see why. Gary Hackett’s men have reached at least the first round on five occasions in the past eight seasons.
They beat Northampton Town last time out and won’t be awed by a visit to Buckinghamshire to take on Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe. They’re 12/1 if you fancy them to upset their hosts. And, hey, it is the ‘magic of the FA Cup’, after all…