This weekend is all about the magic of the FA Cup.
There are plenty of fascinating potential stories in the third round and the PA news agency has picked out five of the many interesting ties.
Eagles and Lions battle for bragging rights
Millwall’s match at home to Crystal Palace is the pick of the early fixtures on Saturday. This is the south London rivals’ first competitive meeting since 2013 and looks a good chance for Patrick Vieira, a multiple FA Cup winner in his playing days, to lead the Eagles into the next round. Palace have never won the competition and boast some exciting players as they take on a Millwall side that have lost three of their last five league matches.
Will Toffees come unstuck at hopeful Hull?
Everton started 2022 with a 3-2 home defeat to Brighton, ratcheting up the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez. The Toffees had not played for more than a fortnight before that due to coronavirus-related postponements and now take on a Hull side that will surely smell blood. Not only that, but there may also be a feel good factor around the MKM Stadium with Acun Ilicali reportedly set to attend ahead of his prospective takeover of the Championship side. No club in English football have been up for sale longer than Hull and apathy has naturally grown, making a shot of positivity all the more welcome at the start of the new year.
Chesterfield attempt to stun Chelsea
If it was not for a controversially unawarded goal, this could easily have been a repeat of the 1997 FA Cup final. Instead, Middlesbrough rather than Chesterfield progressed to a Wembley showpiece that Roberto Di Matteo lit up with screamer in a 2-0 Chelsea win. The Spireites have endured some tough times since then but will take buoyant travelling support to the capital as the National League leaders take on the reigning European champions. Odds as short 1/40 on Thomas Tuchel’s men winning highlights how challenging it would be to beat last season’s FA Cup runners-up, but Chesterfield’s first trip to Stamford Bridge in 71 years is sure to be memorable regardless.
Arsenal look to avoid another exit by the Trent
Sunday’s raft of fixtures ends with Mikel Arteta’s side heading to the East Midlands to take on Nottingham Forest. Steve Cooper, the former Swansea boss, has overseen an impressive turnaround since succeeding Chris Hughton in September, taking them from a relegation scrap to a play-off push. Back-to-back defeats have not been ideal preparation for Forest but Arsenal fans will remember their last trip to the City Ground, where Eric Lichaj’s brace helped secure a 4-2 third round win in 2018.
Can Rangnick kickstart United reign?
There is plenty of potential for romance in the third round draw, but it is hard to ignore Monday evening’s all-Premier League encounter. As if Steven Gerrard leading Aston Villa at Old Trafford for the first time was not enough, the Liverpool great has the chance to compound the issues at a club facing intense scrutiny. Already 22 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City – albeit with two games in hand – stories of discontent have emerged in the wake of Monday’s miserable 1-0 home loss to Wolves. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick is under the microscope and he can ill afford to fall at the first hurdle of their most realistic remaining hope of a trophy this season.
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