Liverpool will host Everton in the standout tie of the third round of the FA Cup in England this coming weekend while Arsenal’s home game against Leeds United on Monday is also one of the most interesting ties of a weekend which may or may not produce drama and surprises.
The FA Cup may have lost some of its magic in recent seasons and the fact the sides from the Championship and Premier League come into the competition after a draining Christmas and New Year fixture calendar which has seen them play four games in under a fortnight will probably tempt many coaches to field teams filled with fringe players, reports Xinhua news agency.
That could lead to some upsets, with Norwich in danger in their visit to Championship side, Preston, who are coached by former Norwich boss, Alex Neil. Aston Villa might not relish their visit to Fulham and Jose Mourinho›s Tottenham will have to be wary when they travel to Middlesbrough.
Meanwhile, new West Ham coach David Moyes will want to see his side focused when they make the trip into Kent to play Gillingham. No fewer than seven Premier League clubs fell at the third round stage last season, which may have been a disappointment for some, but it was also a disappointment which gave them an 11-day spell without a game at the fourth round stage, allowing them to effectively recharge their batteries for the second half of the campaign.
A Mersey derby is always fascinating, however, and the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti has helped to spark new life into an Everton side who could view the Cup as a route into Europe, as well as the chance to claim some bragging rights off Liverpool, who are almost certain to rest key players.
Wayne Rooney›s long-awaited debut for Championship side Derby County will also capture a lot of the headlines as they visit Crystal Palace. Manchester United need to give their fans something to cheer about, but won›t relish the visit to play Wolves, who knocked them out of the Cup last season, as well as beating them in the league.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will probably be hoping that Nuno Espiritu Santo decides to rest players already tired after combining the Premier League with European football this campaign, while whether or not Paul Pogba figures will also give headline writers plenty to consider.
The romance of the Cup should be on display when Sheffield United entertain non-league AFC Flyde, but the Premier League side are unlikely to permit a major upset at Bramall Lane.
Port Vale from League 2 (fourth tier) won›t be relishing their visit to play Manchester City either with players such as Phil Foden and other youngsters looking for a chance to impress Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal gave a glimpse of what new coach Mikel Arteta is looking for when they beat Manchester United over the New Year and their game against Championship promotion contenders Leeds United should be interesting as long as Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa fields a strong side.
Whether or not Bielsa does that is open to doubt after Leeds› promotion campaign ran out of steam at the end of last season and this time around returning to the top-flight is more important than Cup glory. IANS