It is the first week in January again & for the domestic football calendar in england that can only mean one thing & of course that is F.A. Cup 3rd round day.
The F.A. Cup is a competition with a tremendously rich & proud history but admittedly it has lost some of it’s value & merit in recent seasons with clubs having bigger priorities but what has not changed & probably never will is the tradition & importance of Round 3 to all clubs involved.
Round 3 is the phase of the competition in which the big teams ie Premier League & Championship sides first mix with the sides from Leagues 1, 2 & of course Non-League clubs as well and that creates a unique opportunity to see matches that are rarely seen.
F.A. Cup Round 3 represents the time when small, low profile teams get their chance to mix it with the big boys & grab their 15 minutes of fame by attempting to be the giant killers & create their own moment of F.A. Cup history.
64 teams ranging from the Premier League giants of Manchester United & Chelsea to the footballing minnows of Barrow & Forest Green take their chance this weekend in what looks set to be a fantastic set of 3rd round fixtures that will provide great drama, entertainment & hopefully the odd shock or two that will keep the magic of the F.A. Cup going.
We have had a good look at all the 3rd F.A. Cup ties & here our views on the fixtures that caught our eye & the value bets available that we think are worth consideration:
Aston Villa vs Blackburn Rovers – (Saturday 3.00pm)
Fascinating all Premier League tie here with the added twist that these two sides are also set to meet in the Carling Cup semi final in 5 days time so this should be a really interesting battle.
Aston Villa are having a tremendous season again under Martin O’Neill & although they come into this game on the back of 2 significant defeats in the league against Arsenal & Liverpool, this home cup tie is a great opportunity for them to bounce straight back & we expect Aston Villa to be totally motivated for this one.
Aston Villa have already proven their strength as a cup side this season with the fact they have won through to the Carling Cup Semi Finals & with victories over Manchester United, Chelsea & Liverpool in the Premier League they have showed that they can beat anybody on their day.
Martin O’Neill will be determined to go for success in the F.A. Cup & we expect Aston Villa to field a strong side, be positive from the start & go for the win here and their excellent home form gives them extra confidence to do that.
Blackburn Rovers have had a very poor season in the main but their Carling Cup Semi Final spot proves they can compete at their best & certainly this is a very important match coming against their Carling Cup semi final opponents.
Sam Allardyce will be determined that Blackburn Rovers compete here to the full & will not want the Blackburn Rovers squad confidences levels to suffer further damage so we expect a tough, resolute performance from Blackburn Rovers in this match.
Blackburn’s away record has been terrible this season & that is their biggest concern ahead of this match so they will certainly have to be on their best form to get a result here.
Cleary the Carling Cup Semi Final between these 2 sides is a more important game at this stage so both Aston Villa & Blackburn may well make changes to their teams but we still expect committed performances from both here with Aston Villa our tip to win this on the day & they look a solid bet to progress to round 4.
Outright Match Result: Aston Villa to win
Correct Score options: Aston Villa to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Heskey/Downing/Agbonlohar
Scorecast options: Heskey/Downing/Agbonlohar score 1st & Aston Villa win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Aston Villa Half Time & Full Time
Middlesbrough v Manchester City – (Saturday 3.00pm)
This looks set to be a classic F.A. Cup tie here with Gordon Strachan & his Middlesbrough side determined to give their best against Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side & this really could be a cracking game of open football.
Gordon Strachan has not enjoyed the best of starts to his career as Middlesbrough manager as they struggle with inconsistency going from great win to poor defeat on what seems a weekly basis so this F.A. Cup tie could well be just what Strachan & the Middlesbrough players need right now.
This massive tie against Manchester City is a fantastic opportunity for everybody at Middlesbrough to come together & have a real go at a powerful premier league side & show that collectively they do have what it takes to get back into the Premier League themselves.
Middlesbrough have been poor at home so far this season & clearly the Middlesbrough players feel massive pressure playing at home in the Championship because they are expected to win every home match but this F.A. Cup tie against a strong Premier League team eases the pressure somewhat & that could just inspire an improved performance from Middlesbrough.
Roberto Mancini is still obviously adapting to life in english football & certainly this experience of domestic cup football will be a fascinating & indeed completely new one for him because domestic cups are not valued at all in Italy.
Ordinarily, Roberto Mancini may well have taken this cup tie lightly had he been in the job longer but having only just taken over means he is under pressure to achieve & he knows that Manchester City have to compete for everything so I expect Manchester City to play a very strong side & certainly to be very positive in this match.
The fact that Manchester City have the massive Carling Cup Semi Final clash against bitter rivals Manchester United coming up in only 5 days adds pressure & will possibly affect team selection but we still expect Manchester City to have real quality & go for the win here.
Both Middlesbrough & Manchester City like to play passing football so this should be a decent, competitive but open game & we like the look of Manchester City as a solid bet to make their extra attacking quality pay on the day.
Outright Match Result: Manchester City to win
Correct Score options: Manchester City to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Tevez/Bellamy/Petrov
Scorecast options: Tevez/Bellamy/Petrov score 1st & Man City win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Man City Half Time & Full Time
Plymouth vs Newcastle United – (Saturday 3.00pm)
All Championship clash here with top of the table Newcastle United travelling to lowly Plymouth in what should be an enthralling, competitive cup tie.
Clearly both Plymouth & Newcastle United have far greater priorities than the F.A. Cup but that should not affect this match with both Paul Mariner at Plymouth & Chris Hughton at Newcastle United managers with ambitions of doing well & they will definitely want to win this tie.
Plymouth have struggled badly all season & that led to the appointment of Paul Mariner as manager and to be fair things have improved greatly since he took over & Plymouth come into this match in very good recent & importantly winning form.
Those recent wins should give the Plymouth players great confidence & the fact this is an F.A. Cup tie & not a vital, pressurised league match should mean the Plymouth players can really be positive here, play their football & go for the win.
Chris Hughton has done a fantastic job since taking over as manager of Newcastle United & he definitely seems like a manager determined to succeed wherever he can so we expect Newcastle United to take this game very seriously indeed.
Promotion back to the Premier League is all that matters really for Newcastle United but they are in good, solid form & there is no reason why they cannot have a good run in the F.A. Cup & also go all out for promotion as well so we do expect a very positive performance from Newcastle United & especially given the talent they have.
This should be an excellent game of football & looks set to be a cracking F.A. Cup tie with both Plymouth & Newcastle United committed to trying to win it but on the day we expect Newcastle United to prove too strong & they look a decent bet to get another win here.
Outright Match Result: Newcastle United to win
Correct Score options: Newcastle United to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Nolan/Ameobi/Lovenkrands
Scorecast options: Nolan/Ameobi/Lovenkrands score 1st & Newcastle United win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Newcastle United Half Time & Full Time
West Ham United vs Arsenal – (Sunday 4.15pm)
We are really looking forward to this London derby clash between West Ham & Arsenal sides who set out to play positive football & to entertain so this should be a cracking game to watch.
With Arsenal sitting in 3rd place in the Premier League & in excellent form taking on lowly & struggling West Ham United side who are trying to find consistent form this does look a mismatch but the F.A. Cup can do strange things to teams & this could be one of those occasions.
The London derby element of this clash certainly levels up the playing field somewhat because the extra intensity & atmosphere to the game should inspire both sides & particularly the home side West Ham United who will be fully committed to putting a great performance for their fans.
The fact this is an F.A. Cup tie should release the burden of pressure which the West Ham United players are feeling at present & that realease could trigger an improved & more confident performance from West Ham United who will be totally committed to trying to win the match.
Arsene Wenger knows that he has to deliver success to the Arsenal fans & indeed board who have given him fantastic support over the years and clearly the F.A. Cup is an excellent opportunity to do just that.
Arsenal illustrated with their 3-0 win over Aston Villa & 4-1 win over Portsmouth that they are in cracking form at present & they will feel that they can go to West Ham United, play their usual, fluent football and win the match.
What will be interesting in this match will be too see how Arsene Wenger approaches the game in terms of team selection but given how important winning a trophy now is to Arsenal & their fans, we expect Arsenal to play a strong side with the intentions of winning the match on the day.
Matches between West Ham United & Arsenal always generate a fantastic, charged atmosphere because they games mean so much to everybody connected & we are expecting a fantastic, competitive & open game of football which means there should be goals & clearly it is very dangerous to oppose Arsenal on that basis but we are going to take a chance on West Ham United being inspired enough on the day to compete for absolutely everything & pull of a shock victory here.
Outright Match Result: West Ham United to win
Correct Score options: West Ham United to win 2-1/3-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Franco/Diamante/Collison
Scorecast options: Franco/Diamante/Collison to score 1st & West Ham United win 2-1/3-1
Double Result: West Ham United Half Time & Full Time
Notts County vs Forest Green – (Sunday 3.00pm)
Now this F.A. Cup tie might not grab the attention of too many people outside of either Notts County or Forest Green but it certainly caught our eye as a fascinating F.A. Cup tie that offers a great deal of interest & should be a good game to watch.
This season has already seen great drama both on & off the pitch at Notts County with the whole Sven Goran Eriksson scenario, new, mysterious owners buying the club & supposedly pumping millions in & now of course a new management buyout with the club having to deal with serious financial issues so this F.A. Cup 3rd round tie should prove to be a welcome distraction.
Notts County are having a good season in League 2 & while they may not have met the high expectations that came with the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson, the facts are Notts County have done well this season & are indeed dangerous opponents for most teams on their best form.
Like we said, this F.A. Cup tie is a distraction from the pressures of the trying to achieve promotion in the league & we are expecting Notts County to be committed to showing their quality & to have a real go at winning this game in style with goals.
Notts County have been very strong at home this season & certainly have scored a lot of goals and they certainly have a great chance of winning this match if they play anywhere near their best form.
Forest Green are a tremendously proud club with a rich tradition and they will view this cup tie as an excellent opportunity to have a real go & show what they are capable of.
In terms of the season so far in the league, then Forest Green have been struggling in the Blue Square Premier League, sitting 4th bottom with only 4 wins all seasons so this cup tie will be a welcome relief from those pressures.
We are expecting Forest Green to travel to Notts County with a totally positive attitude & determination to go for the game on the day and this really should be a fantastic, open game of football which should give Notts County the perfect opportunity to show their extra quality & their strength at home and they do look a very solid bet to go through to round 4.
Outright Match Result: Notts County to win
Correct Score options: Notts County to win 2-0/3-0
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Hughes/Rodgers/Hawley
Double Result: Notts County Half Time & Full Time
Huddersfield Town vs West Brom – (Saturday 3.00pm)
Another fascinating match in prospect here & indeed a classic F.A. Cup tie between two sides with really proud traditions & two sides going well in their respective leagues so there everything to play for in this one.
Huddersfield Town & West Brom have so far enjoyed excellent, confident starts to the season & both are going very well in their respective leagues so this should be a very competitive match & indeed a quality, open match because that is how both sides like to play.
Lee Clark of Huddersfield Town & Roberto Di Matteo of West Brom are both young, progressive managers who pride themselves on winning so we expect totally positive approaches from both teams here & this game certainly could provide goals.
Huddersfield Town have been excellent at home this season in the league this season & particularly lethal in front of goals so they will be confident they cand replicate that in this cup match & although they know West Brom will be tough opponents, we expect them to be fully committed to playing their positive, attacking football in this one.
West Brom are going strong in the Championship, sitting 2nd only 5 points of the top & we expect Roberto Di Matteo’s team to come here full of confidence & determined to get the win with their proven strength & quality away from home.
This should be a cracking game & we are expecting both Huddersfield & West Brom to have a real go so any result is entirely possible on the day but we are taking Huddersfield Town to be inspired by their incredible home form & to cause a mini shock by edging this on the day.
Outright Match Result: Huddersfield Town to win
Correct Score options: Huddersfield Town to win 2-1/3-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Rhodes/Kay/Novac
Scorecast options: Rhodes/Kay/Novac score 1st & Huddersfield Town to win 2-1/3-1
Double Result: Huddersfield Town Half Time & Full Time
Tottenham vs Peterborough – (Saturday 3.00pm)
A look at the respective Premier League & Championship league tables perfectly illustrates the clear & definite gap between these sides in the league but this is an F.A. Cup tie & one that certainly perfectly represents what the F.A. Cup is all about.
Tottenham vs Peterborough is not a fair contest based on Tottenham lying 4th in the Premier League & Peterborough bottom of the Championship & based on all knowledge this should be a comfortable home victory but what really catches our eye in this game is the guaranteed attacking football that will be played.
Tottenham are a club totally committed to playing positive, attacking football & certainly they have displayed on a regular basis this season with the likes of Defoe, Lennon, Krancjar, Modric etc all producing excellent, positive football & scoring lots of goals in the process and we do expect more of the same here.
Peterborough have progressed through League 2 & then League 1 to reach the Championship playing fantastically entertaining, attacking football & they will certainly adopt the same philosophy here.
Peterborough’s most recent Championship match against Cardiff City perfectly illustrates both their strengths & their weaknesses.
In that game, Peterborough found themselves 4-0 down mainly due to their defensive fragility & lack of team organisation but incredibly they produced a sensational, committed performance full of positive attacking football to somehow earn an incredible 4-4 draw.
Coming back from 4-0 to earn a draw was unbelievable & should ensure that the Peterborough players go into this game absolutely full of confidence & just totally committed to enjoying themselves in the way they play.
We are really looking forward to this tie because positive, attacking football looks guaranteed and certainly Tottenham & Peterborough look set to provide entertainment & goals but in terms of a bet we cannot see past Tottenham who should have too much attacking quality on the day & look a rock solid bet to win comfortably in the end.
Outright Match Result: Tottenham to win
Correct Score options: Tottenham to win 3-1/4-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Defoe/Keane/Crouch
Scorecast options: Defoe/Keane/Crouch score 1st & Tottenham win 3-1/4-1
Double Result: Tottenham Half Time & Full Time
Nottingham Forest vs Birmingham City – (Saturday 3.00pm)
Two of the most consistent & in form sides in the entire country clash here with Nottingham Forest going tremendously well in the the Championship & Birmingham City proving their worth in the Premier League so this really should be a fantastically competitive match.
Billy Davies has always done a great job wherever he has been in charge & he has certainly carried that on at Nottingham Forest with them currently 3rd in the Championship & looking rock solid contenders for promotion this season.
Nottingham Forest have really developed into a very strong, tremendously well organised & confident side in recent months and they come into this match in excellent, consistent form.
That run of excellent form should ensure the Nottingham Forest players come into this match positive & believing that they can get a positive result against Birmingham City & the fact this is a cup tie means they can definitely be extra positive here.
Alex McCleish’s Birmingham City side continue to surprise & impress in equal measure with their excellent run of solid, consistent performances and their current form is as strong as any team in the country.
11 games without defeat in the Premier League is a tremendous achievement for Alex McCleish’s side & the fact they sit 7th in the Premier League with safety already virtually assured is truly remarkable & beyond what anybody expected.
Tactically there is no secret to Birmingham City & they are based on being tremendously well organised & with an incredibly strong team spirit with all the individual players knowing their roles within the team unit & that is why they work so well together & are proving so hard to beat.
Without doubt both Nottingham Forest & Birmingham City have far bigger priorities than successful cup runs but both teams are in such great form that neither manager will want risk that & all the players from both sides will want to retain their own form so this really should be a tremendously competitive & intense match with neither side prepared to give in easily.
Both Nottingham Forest & Birmingham City are in excellent form & both squads will be confident that a result can be achieved so anything is possible here & it is incredibly hard to split the two teams but we are going to take a value punt on Nottingham Forest just making the most of home advantage & winning the battle to progress.
Outright Match Result: Nottingham Forest to win
Correct Score options: Nottingham Forest to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Earnshaw/Mcgoldrick/Anderson
Scorecast options: Earnshaw/Mcgoldrick/Anderson score 1st & Nottm Forest win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Nottingham Forest Half Time & Full Time
Well we hope those match previews prove to interesting & useful but whatever bets you have on the F.A. Cup this weekend, let’s hope the matches give us loads of fantastic drama & entertainment.