Fa Cup Third Round 5 Things To Watch As Premier League Clubs Join The Party At Last
The FA Cup resumes this weekend to bring the curtain down on a hectic period of festive football.
At this stage last year the magic of the cup was in full flow; Swansea City knocked Manchester United out to pile even more misery on David Moyes, Nottingham Forest smashed FIVE past Big Sam”s hapless West Ham and non-league Kidderminster Harriers reached the fourth round after winning at Peterborough.
Expect more of the same this time around as we approach the business end of the biggest domestic cup competition in the world.
Here are some things to look out for over the weekend…
LvG gets his first taste of FA Cup action
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has a rich history when it comes to lifting cups.
The enigmatic Dutchman lifted the KNVB Cup with Ajax, the Copa del Rey with Barcelona and the DFB Cup with Bayern Munich, so it”s fair to say he doesn”t adopt the Alan Pardew approach to cup competitions.
United have not lost since the Manchester derby in early November and Van Gaal looks to be repairing some of the damage done by David Moyes during his torrid time at Old Trafford.
With the Premier League title seemingly out of the Red Devils” reach this season, success in the cup for the first time in 11 years wouldn”t go amiss.
Van Gaal takes United to Huish Park to take on League One side Yeovil Town on Sunday.
Blyth look to continue remarkable run
Blyth Spartans are the proud owners of the shock of the tournament so far award (it exists*) after they knocked out North East neighbours Hartlepool in stunning fashion in the second round.
The Northumberland club welcome Birmingham City to Croft Park and after their heroics last time out they”ll be looking to go one better against the Championship side.
Five divisions separate the two clubs and in reality the Midlands club should have too much for Blyth.
However we saw in December that Blyth aren”t keen on sticking to scripts and you wouldn”t put it past the Green Army recording another famous result.
Read Simon Bird”s Blyth Spartans preview here.
2014 final rerun
Arsenal and Hull produced one of the most memorable FA Cup finals in recent years when the Gunners came back from two goals down to lift the trophy in May.
The Tigers were two goals to the good after just eight minutes at Wembley and, in hindsight, that was probably the worst thing that could have happened to Steve Bruce”s side.
Eight months later and both clubs are doing what they do best.
Arsenal are in a dogfight for fourth spot in the Premier League – again, while Hull are hovering precariously above the relegation places – again.
Both managers have something key when it comes to the FA Cup though: an understanding of the tournament”s importance to English supporters, and that should be enough to make this an intriguing contest.
Clubs with most FA Cup final wins
Accurate as of January 2015.
Perfect time for Wimbledon to play Liverpool
Action ImagesBad timing? Could Liverpool be mourning the departure of Gerrard on Sunday?
If there was ever a time for a plucky League Two team to take on one of English football”s greats, it is right now.
The Reds are still in mourning for the announced departure of Steven Gerrard and team confidence is once again at an all-time low, after blowing a two-goal lead to draw with Leicester.
Brendan Rodgers is experimenting with new systems and playing players out of position – and using the FA Cup game to give some of his fringe players a game could prove to be costly.
Wimbledon come into the game with a breed of confidence as well, having won their last outing against promotion challengers Exeter 4-1 and toppling Portsmouth 2-0 at Fratton Park previously.
This will certainly not be an easy day out for Liverpool.
Non-league giantkillers… is there a chance?
Getty ImagesBig day: Dover”s fans could witness history if they beat Palace on Sunday
This it notoriously the stage of the competition where the lucky triers from non-professional game take their bow and leave, but this year, there could be the chance for a monumental upset.
Crystal Palace and West Brom both have new management teams at the helm and, as much as they will be looking for easy starts to their time in charge, they will not get it.
Gateshead are one of the better teams in the Conference with confidence aplenty, so a trip to the Hawthorns will be more a chance for them to showcase what they are about that anything else. Upset possibility? Of course.
It gets even worse for Alan Pardew. He takes Palace to Dover Athletic. Supporters close to the pitch at the Crabble Athletic Ground and a team embarking on one of the biggest days in their history makes a giant-killing a real possibility.
As discussed above, Blyth”s hostile environment at Croft Park will make for a scintillating tie with Birmingham, giving them the chance of at least forcing a replay.
Elsewhere, Wrexham travel down the road to Stoke and will be taking a healthy following of supporters. On their day, Wrexham, filled with Football League pedigree, can beat the best, but an away trip to the Britannia might be a step too far.
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