The first Saturday of January sees most of the FA Cup third round ties decided. There are so many ties but some stand out more than others, so let take preview and predict the results for the best five ties.
- Away team to win at home in replay = *
- Home team to win away in replay = ^
Manchester United vs Reading (12:30 KO, BT Sport2)
Manchester United come into this match on an unbeaten run since November and will be looking to triumph over their former star, Jaap Stam on his return to Old Trafford with Reading.
With a League Cup first leg semi on Tuesday night against Hull City, Jose Mourinho will be keen to rest a few first team players.
Sergio Romero has been confirmed as starting in goal but has not played for much of this season so could his inclusion give Reading a chance to cause a cupset?
Wayne Rooney will be eying his first start after missing the festive season with a thigh injury. He has a chance to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s all time record of 249 goals, if he nets at least one ball.
The Royals are without Callum Harriott (hamstring), Stephen Quinn and Anssi Jaakkola (knee injuries). Striker, Deniss Rakels is unlikely to make the trip north despite being nearly ready for a return to the squad from a broken ankle.
The match itself should be interesting with Reading recently going deep in the FA Cup over the past couple of seasons. Premier League opposition has ended their cup runs on both occasions, could this be third season lucky?
The fact that Mourinho will be playing fringe players is likely to create problems because they will be fresher than most of Stam’s men. Reading however have played one less completed festive fixture, how crucial could the half time abandonment against Fulham on 30th December prove to be fitness wise?
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Reading*
Result: Manchester United 4-0 Reading
Everton vs Leicester
This match is massive and really should be on the TV instead of stuck in its 3:00 slot. Either way, the FA Cup could make or break both teams’ seasons if they want European football, come August.
Everton won their most recent meeting, nearly two weeks ago at the King Power stadium 2-0. The Foxes will therefore be looking for revenge but will have to make do without Islam Slimani, Riyad Mahrez and Daniel Amartey due to Africa Cup of Nations.
Ronald Koeman is without James McCarthy (hamstring) and Maarten Stekelenburg (dead leg). Their first new January signing, Ademola Lookman is unfortunately cup-tied.
With Jamie Vardy back from suspension, he will be starting up front and ready to savage something from this shocker of a title defence season. Wilfred Ndidi could make his debut in midfield alongside a returning, Danny Drinkwater.
Their FA Cup meeting record have seen Everton come out on top in both outings. With the way, the Toffees have performed in recent weeks, they look unbeatable and with Claudio Ranieri’s side more focussed on Champions League glory, realistically, it looks like another simple win for the Merseyside team.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Result: Everton 1-2 Leicester
Norwich vs Southampton
This is one of those matches that can go either way.
Norwich may be in the Championship but are capable of knocking out the Saints, who really deserve a cup run with the squad that they have.
Both sides are planning to shuffle the line ups and try out some youth players, which adds further intrigue to this match up. Claude Puel’s side haven’t scored in their last three trips to Carrow Road. As a result, he will be eager to put out a strong attacking side whilst resting many first team players for Wednesday’s League Cup first leg semi against Liverpool.
One bonus might be that the Canaries have not got past this round in the last three seasons. As a result, this match is one tough cookie to call.
Prediction: Norwich 0-0 Southampton*
Result: Norwich 2-2 Southampton
Bolton Wanderers vs Crystal Palace
Former Bolton boss and player, Sam Allardyce take his new side, Crystal Palace to the Macron Stadium. Failure to at least take the tie back to Selhurst Park will be an embarrassment for the Dudley born manager.
The Eagles will be delighted to have Loic Remy ready to make his debut after a long spell on the injury list with a thigh problem. Julian Speroni will be in goal and setting a new all time record of 389 games for Crystal Palace.
Bolton are however in the hands of Cup specialist, Phil Parkinson, who knows how to upset Premier League outfits on home turf with Arsenal and Sunderland being two notable casualties over the years, during his time at Bradford City.
This match is hard to call but should see at least one goal apiece. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this go to a replay.
Prediction: ^Bolton Wanders 1-1 Crystal Palace
Result: Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Crystal Palace
Preston vs Arsenal
This match could well rest on morale in the Arsenal squad following Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at Bournemouth.
Aleix Sanchez and Mesut Ozil should be too strong for the Lilywhites but if there are any contempt left over from midweek, they will be ripped apart by a resilient midtable Championship team.
Alternatively, the shambles of midweek will make the Gunners ruthless and determined to prove doubters wrong and they will run riot at Deepdale. Theo Walcott will be eying a start given his performances in last two FA Cup appearances (two goals and one assist) so Arsene Wenger has tough decisions to make as he look for a response from his players.
Past FA Cup meetings at Preston have produced an average of five per game so expect a thriller. With Arsenal randomly slipping into self destruct mode on numerous occasions every season before rescuing themselves, could they be descending into their next period of shocking results?
Prediction: Preston 2-2 Arsenal *
Result: Preston 1-2 Arsenal