FA Cup Third Round Preview
After a frantic Christmas and New Year period across the domestic leagues in England, the FA Cup brings a chance for many teams to focus on an alternative competition in the second half of the season.
32 third round fixtures will take place this weekend and there are a host of all Premier League ties and match ups between higher league and lower league opposition. Marine of the Northern Premier League host Tottenham Hotspur on Monday evening in what should be a proper FA Cup affair. National League side Boreham Wood also host higher tiered opposition as Championship club Millwall travel to north London on Saturday. Elsewhere, there are three all Premier League matches with Aston Villa hosting Liverpool, Wolves taking on Crystal Palace. Holders Arsenal begin their defence of the FA Cup at home to Newcastle while runners up Chelsea welcome League 2 Morecambe to Stamford Bridge.
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Aston Villa v Liverpool
Aston Villa were one of the standout teams in the Premier League over the festive period. Dean Smith’s side have lost just one match in their last six and kept four clean sheets in this run. While Villa’s Premier League record is strong, their recent FA Cup form is poor, the Midlands side have lost their last five matches in the competition, bowing at in the third round in four of the last five seasons.
Liverpool are enduring another inconsistent spell in their season having drawn two and lost one of their last three matches. Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to score in consecutive matches for the first time this season after a 0-0 draw to Newcastle and a 1-0 loss to Southampton. The Reds have only won once in their last seven on the road in all competitions and they suffered their largest away loss of the season at Villa Park back in October, losing 7-2.
Wesley (knee) and Trezeguet (thigh) are ruled out for Aston Villa. Liverpool will be without Virgil Van Dijk (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Naby Keita (muscular injury), Joel Matip (groin), Diogo Jota (knee), and Konstantinos Tsimikas (knee).
It’s unlikely Liverpool will suffer another shock defeat to Villa this time around. However, Dean Smith’s side could force a replay with Liverpool in what could be a tense encounter on Friday evening.
QPR v Fulham
With just four points from their last 18 available, QPR have dropped down the Championship table. A 1-1 draw with Norwich last weekend added to their nine-game run without a win. A positive for QPR is their home form this season as all four of their wins have come at Loftus Road. However, they have failed to score in their last three games at home.
Fulham return to action after two weeks without a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad. Scott Parker’s side showed signs of promise before an unscheduled break, drawing four, winning one, and losing one of their last six matches. However, with just four goals in their last six, the Cottagers are the second least prolific team in the Premier League.
QPR are without long-term absentees Luke Amos (ACL) and Charlie Owens (knee). Terence Kongolo could return for Fulham, who otherwise have a fully fit squad.
Two of the lowest scorers in English football go head-to-head in this West London derby. Expect few frills and a comfortable Fulham victory.
Man United v Watford
Man United’s recent rejuvenation continued over the Christmas and New Year period. The Red Devils have won five of their last seven and progressed to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup. United’s home form has also improved of late and they have picked up 13 points from their last 15 available at Old Trafford.
Watford have proven hard to beat this season and have lost just five of their 22 Championship matches this season. The Hornets have the second-best defence in the league too, having shipped just 17 goals and kept nine clean sheets. New Watford manager Xisco will be hoping to make his mark with a positive result at Old Trafford after winning one and losing one of his first two matches in charge.
Victor Lindelof may be back in contention after a recent back injury. However, United will be without Phil Jones (knee), Marcos Rojo (calf) and Edinson Cavani (suspended). Isaac Success (achilles), Tom Dele-Bashiru (cruciate rupture), and Adam Masina (tendon) are all ruled out for Watford.
With United flying towards the top of the Premier League, it is hard to look beyond them for this fixture. Watford, however, are no push overs and will provide stiff competition for United this weekend.
Arsenal v Newcastle
2019/20 FA Cup winners Arsenal head into this season’s competitions on a high. The Gunners put together a three-match winning streak between Boxing Day and New Year, which included an impressive 3-1 home win over Chelsea and a prolific 4-0 win against West Brom. After securing back-to-back clean sheets, Mikel Arteta will hope his side continue their solid displays to kick-start their FA Cup campaign.
Newcastle are on a six-match run without a win including a 1-0 loss to Brentford in the quarter final of the EFL Cup. The Magpies have lost three consecutive games away from home and struggled to keep the goals out recently, conceding 11 in their last seven. Steve Bruce’s side made it to the quarter finals of last year’s FA Cup and he will be hoping his side can find a return to form in this competition on Saturday.
Gabriel (coronavirus) and Thomas Partey (thigh) could return for Arsenal this weekend. Ryan Fraser is ruled out for Newcastle with a groin injury but Jamaal Lascelles, Jamal Lewis, and Allan Saint-Maximin could be back in contention.
Arsenal should record a comfortable win against a Newcastle side lacking creativity and confidence.
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