It’s traditionally one of the most exciting dates on the English football calendar: the third round of the FA Cup, the world’s oldest cup competition, when the Premier League teams go into battle. Surprises follow when lower division teams are inspired by the “magic of the cup” to take down more famous opponents.
It’s the stuff dreams are made of, but the 2020-21 FA Cup (like everything else) has been hit by the ongoing threat of COVID-19 that has cast doubt on several games and resulted in some postponements. Regardless, there’s plenty of action to keep football fans on the couch all weekend: we’ll get you ready for the action, with the state of the competition, the best games to improve your vision, and the most menacing minnows, the are prepared to shock their fans elite opponents.
COVID-19 and the FA Cup
The shadow of COVID-19 has hung over the FA Cup all season. Preliminary rounds with non-league clubs that are affected by audience restrictions, up to the National League team Notts County must lose their fourth qualifying round against King’s Lynn Town in October on a series of positive tests. And they were far from the only club that had to give up its place.
Unfortunately, things have got worse rather than better, and the third round has already been hit by a number of issues that could wreak havoc on the fixture list not only this weekend but also in the coming weeks.
SouthamptonHas got’s home game against Shrewsbury Town has already been postponed due to a significant outbreak at League One Club while Aston Villa‘s All-Premier League fight against Liverpool on Friday is progressing for Aston Villa despite several positive tests.
Villa is expected to play a U23 team a role reversal for the Carabao Cup draw between the two teams last season when Jürgen Klopp’s team was at the Club World Cup. Derby will send an U23 squad to Chorley because several first-team players have to self-isolateand Middlesbrough may need to be postponed their game in Brentford following the closure of the club’s training ground due to COVID-19. Sheffield Wednesday also had to close its training ground before the Exeter draw and has to do without the entire first-team coaching team.
The FA has funded testing for the 44 non-Premier League clubs participating in the third round and problems were expected. However, due to the overload of the schedule list this season, the solutions are in short supply. This is due to the fact that the campaign starts a month later than usual as a result of the pandemic.
The clubs must deny their draw if they can use 14 fit players, including players from the youth team. As a result, multiple teams may be forced to choose this option this weekend. The alternative is to postpone the tie and hope that a new date can be set. However, all third round games must be played before January 23, the fourth round date.
This means that the clubs only have two weeks to find a new date and some clubs simply do not have a free date. If games can’t be rearranged, the club hit by COVID will have to lose the tie – and that seems likely in some cases. – Mark Ogden
Julien Laurens questions Bruno Fernandes’ performance this season against the “big clubs”.
Viewing Guide: The best games to watch all weekend
Do you need a quick overview of what to watch and when? We’ll cover you.
Aston Villa v Liverpool, Friday: When these two teams met at Villa Park in October, Dean Smith’s side gave Jurgen Klopp’s men a 7-2 pounding, a match that summed up the unpredictable, unprecedented nature of this season. A string of positive tests at Villa forced them to close their training ground on Thursday, but the game continues and you can expect Villa to raise a team of kids in place of their stars. Liverpool will have little sympathy as they had to play Villa in the Carabao Cup in December 2019 while the first team for the Club World Cup was in Qatar and lost 5-0. ((Stream live on ESPN + at 2:45 p.m. ET in the US)
QPR vs. Fulham, Saturday: Fulham has been hit hard by COVID-19. The last two Premier League games have been postponed due to a club outbreak and QPR is hoping to overturn their rivals in west London when the two meet. ((Live stream on ESPN + at 10am CET in the US)
Everton Rotherham, Saturday: Carlo Ancelotti is experiencing a rare silver drought due to his admittedly high standards, having recently won a trophy at Bayern Munich in 2017. Everton play well in the Premier League and will be clear favorites to beat Rotherham, who is second in the second division championship. Rotherham has had a tough season and due to their own COVD crisis, they have only played once since December 16. This gives them the chance of a free kick. (Stream live on ESPN + at 7 a.m. ET in the US)
arsenal Newcastle, Saturday: This is the eye-catching Third Round All Premier League game. Mikel Arteta’s rejuvenated Arsenal host Newcastle on Saturday night. Newcastle last won a major trophy in 1955 and Steve Bruce has his hands full at St James’ Park, with pervasive uncertainty behind the scenes, but Arsenal is one of the form teams with three wins out of three, stepping in as the FA Cup winners this duel one. ((Stream live on ESPN + at 12:30 p.m. ET in the US)
Chelsea Morecambe, Sunday: Chelsea have a point from their last three Premier League games and Frank Lampard is under pressure to change the situation. Morecambe has been riding its COVID-19 outbreak after the last two second division games were postponed. But if ever there is a right time for Morecambe’s most monumental FA Cup problems, it is now. Chelsea have a miss in the Premier League and will feel the pressure on Sunday. ((Live stream on ESPN + at 8:30 am CET in the US)
Marine vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday: This game is already branded in the history of the FA Cup. Eight divisions separate the Northwest Northern Premier League club, Northwest Club Marine, from the Premier League high-flyer, Spurs, in the largest two-team gap in the tournament’s long and rich history. Marine’s shelter and warm-up kit are sponsored by Jamie Carragher’s JC23 Foundation for this tie, and the Merseyside club is selling virtual tickets for the clash after state restrictions prevented them from having supporters in the stands. This is the smoothest banana peel for Spurs preparing to take on a team of hospital staff and teachers. ((Stream live on ESPN + at 12:00 PM ET in the US)
Stockport County v West Ham, Monday: West Ham is doing well under David Moyes, but the tournament causes seismic shock every season and it could be the Hammers’ turn. Stockport County is fourth in the National League Premier and is eager to get past a Premier League opponent in the final scheduled game of the weekend. ((Stream live on ESPN + at 3:00 p.m. ET in the US) – Tom Hamilton
Player to see
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes co-competitions have never been more important to England’s biggest football teams.
“I think we are doing something good in the country as every cup is becoming more and more important,” said Arteta. “For example, in the Carabao Cup you saw that the teams were involved in the semi-finals[[[[Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Brentford]and final [this year] has improved compared to the past 18 years.
“Everyone wants to win a trophy, everyone knows how difficult it is to win a trophy, so you have to stick to every competition.”
The FA Cup has been marginalized by the growth of both the Premier League and the Champions League for many years and will continue to be under pressure in this most severely curtailed season. Cutlery is always welcome, however, and can be a precious commodity for any manager – Arteta would have found it harder to get through Arsenal’s dire start to the season without a trophy – and although the prize money has been cut in half due to the impact of COVID-19 on the FA, every penny counts.
The winning team continues to receive a total of £ 3.4 million for winning the competition, a useful amount in a difficult climate. However, the shortened schedule has placed unprecedented physical demands on players and has made even greater rotation of players almost inevitable. So which young players could make their mark in the FA Cup this season?
Amad Diallo, MF / FW, Manchester United: Diallos £ 37 million move from Atalanta was completed on Thursday, although he won’t qualify for Saturday’s third round against Watford. That said, United’s eagerness to land the 18-year-old now rather than this summer means he’s going to get a shot as soon as possible. An agreement in principle between the clubs was reached in October, but the Serie A team wanted to keep him for the entire 2020-21 season. United urged to complete a move for the winger in the winter window and an FA Cup run would give him an excellent chance to make an impression.
Billy Gilmour, MF, Chelsea: The 19-year-old underwent knee surgery in July after a breakthrough season on Stamford Bridge, during which he appeared 11 times on either side of the lockdown. Arguably his most impressive performance came in Chelsea’s last pre-break game against Everton on March 8, when Gilmour displayed a maturity in positioning and possession that many in the Blues midfield have since been missing. Jorginho has struggled at times to anchor Chelsea midfield; Gilmour could use the FA Cup to rebuild his playing acuity and claim a more regular participation, either in midfield or in a slightly more advanced role.
Japhet Tanganga, DF, Tottenham: It was a year ago this month when Jose Mourinho Tanganga made a shocking Premier League debut against defending champions Liverpool. Spurs were hit that day, but Tanganga, whose only previous appearance in the Carabao Cup had been against Colchester, impressed on the right side of a three-man defense. He made regular appearances prior to suspension – and signed a new five-year deal in July – only to appear in cup competitions five times this season. A hamstring injury left him sidelined for two months before missing three games in December with a shoulder problem. The 21-year-old is now fit again and is hoping for a number of gigs to continue his career. – James Olley
Don’t sleep on the best of the championship
For those teams that are at the top of the championship (England’s second division), you’d want the majority to advance to the FA Cup fourth round which then features some fascinating games between teams in the Premier League and those who do hope to join them again next season.
Norwich City is the form team in the championship and has Teemu Pukki Back in free goals form while their brilliant midfielder Emi Buendia is on Arsenal’s radar, sources have told ESPN. They greet Coventry City on Saturday at Carrow Road (Stream live on ESPN + at 7 a.m. ET in the US) and will be favorites to advance to the next round.
Swansea is four points ahead of Norwich in second place and heads to Stevenage on Saturday (Live stream on ESPN + at 10am CET in the US). Steve Cooper’s side overtook Watford at the weekend and, thanks to an impressive center-back pairing of Marc Guehi and has the worst defense in the championship Ben Cabango.
Bournemouth goes north to Harry Kewell’s Oldham Athletic for the third round on Saturday (Live stream on ESPN + at 10am CET in the US) and hope for their wonderful winger, David Brookscan let the Latics defenders spin in their boots. Josh King’s long-term future on the South Coast is uncertain with a number of Premier League clubs interested in his service, but they have plenty of class with Lewis Cook, Dominic Solanke and Jefferson Lerma play everything well.
Brentford, who lost to Tottenham in the Carabao Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, is one place back in fourth and is hoping to see Middlesbrough at his new stadium on Saturday night (Stream live on ESPN + at 1:00 p.m. ET in the US) until the results of Boro’s latest COVID-19 tests are available. Ivan Toney is the championship top scorer at 16 and even without Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahmawho are both now in the Premier League with Aston Villa and West Ham (on loan). Brentford is set to have another playoff push this year and possibly a cup run in their sights. And keep an eye on Reading: the exciting 18 year old Michael Olise got the championship under control and Lucas Joao hit the goals.
If you’re looking for a shock result from the championship, Watford and Stoke City are best placed to resolve issues. Watford travels to Manchester United on Saturday (Stream live on ESPN + at 3:00 p.m. ET in the US) under another manager – Xisco Munoz, who took the job in December, is their sixth manager in two and a half years – and could spark a surprise against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lot. There’s also Stoke City, impressively with Michael O’Neill preparing to face Leicester on Saturday. ((Live stream on ESPN + at 10am CET in the US) Stoke are eighth in the championship and although they can do without striker Tyrese Campbell due to injury, they will hopefully knock their opponents over in the Premier League. – Tom Hamilton
The Minnows hope for cup magic
The romance and beauty of the FA Cup third round is that it’s a weekend when the neighbor can live the dream of playing against the Premier League superstars – that’s exactly what Marine part-time players can expect when they face Tottenham on Sunday (Stream live on ESPN + at 12:00 PM ET in the US)
Marine, whose Rossett Park grounds are less than ten kilometers from Liverpool’s Anfield, ranks sixth in the Northern Premier League North West Division – 161 spots below Spurs in the English football pyramid, making this a real clash between David and Goliath power.
Manager Neil Young is a railroad worker, Captain Niall Cummins is a PE teacher and striker James Barrigan is a garbage collector. When Marine defeated Havant & Waterlooville in the second round to book the duel with Spurs, goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant went viral afterwards Pictures were taken on social media bought celebratory drinks from him at the local supermarket after the game while he was still carrying his equipment.
It would be the greatest shock in FA Cup history if Marine beat Spurs, but the tiny outfit is one of four non-league teams competing in the third round.
Stockport, who was relegated from the EFL in 2011, will play West Ham at Edgeley Park on Monday to repeat one of the club’s most famous wins against the Hammers. Back in December 1996, Stockport beat West Ham 2-1 in the EFL Cup, with Iain Dowie scoring one goal a weird (and legendary) own goal To help county win. With Stockport fourth in the National League, this promises to be a difficult game for David Moyes’ West Ham.
Chorley, midfielder in the National League North, hosts Wayne RooneyDerby County, which comes into play with much of its squad – including Rooney – and is self-isolating at the EFL Championship Club due to a COVID-19 outbreak. There’s also National League side Boreham Wood, who pit against championship team Millwall on their tiny Meadow Park grounds to piss off the 2004 FA Cup finalists. – Mark Ogden