With the 2021-22 Premier League season kicking off in two weeks, more and more pundits have placed their bets on the top four and there seems to be a familiar pattern.
The FA Cup is arguably the best annual sporting competition in the world, and the third round is the greatest chapter of that story.
This weekend’s third round fixtures are a real premium sporting event.
What makes it so exciting is the potential upsets and near misses that this stage of the competition are famed for. There is also the great vision of seeing some of sport’s big names playing out of a ground that holds less fans than their lowest paid players would earn in a week.
The mad punters with their huge accumulator bets are furiously crossing their fingers or potential wins off as the afternoon morning unfolds. It certainly is a time where following the 72 teams below the top division can pay dividends.
It’s also a time for the lower divisions to get their day in the sun. Along with the welcomed extra prize money is the glory of a Cup run, and potentially giving lower league fans who usually have not a great deal to cheer for something to be happy about.
Going past the third round also increases the chance of seeing your team on the TV.
But despite some of the focus inevitably turning to the EPL ties only, it’s mainly about the upsets of the lower league teams over some of the bigger clubs that is the most intriguing. Offered below are some stats and thoughts on a few of the potential Cup upsets – or Cupsets if you will.
In past five Third Rounds of the FA Cup there have been 31 wins for sides over a team in a higher division. Some of the more interesting bits are below.
• More than half of those upsets come at the expense of a Championship side. This even includes three exits at the hands of non-League teams in the past five editions.
• The biggest category for upset is League One (3rd) beating Championship (second) with two a year on average.
• League One teams are the kings of the upset with just under half of the surprise results coming for the third tier sides.
• On average two EPL sides are knocked out at this stage by lower league clubs.
• Four non-League teams have beaten higher opposition in the past five seasons. There is only one team left that can achieve that, and it looks a real chance.
Here is the list of the some of the games in which a surprise result may not be totally surprising. Claiming no professional expertise and maybe none of them will end up as an upset, but this is a time of year where paying attention to the Football League can pay off.
The odds are not necessarily for gambling purposes but displayed for a guide for expectations of result.
Wycombe Wanderers v Aston Villa
Aston Villa are lucky they didn’t draw anyone higher than sixth-placed League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, as given their current form in the EPL they may not have been favourites against anyone in the second or third tiers.
Wycombe, aka The Chairboys, have some Cup pedigree having made the semis of the FA Cup in 2000-01 and League Cup in 2006-07 from the lower divisions. Aston Villa look unlikely to beat anyone, and confidence is low after losing the relegation six pointer on Saturday so the chance of an upset is high.
Wycombe $3.50 Draw $3.30 Aston Villa $2.10
Eastleight v Bolton Wanderers
Bolton, who are dead last in the Championship, are going very much the same way as Aston Villa in the division above, although Bolton did recently end a 17-game winless streak. But there’s more than on-field worries for the Trotters with players not being paid, huge club debts, an owner who wants out and issues relating to the manager.
Bolton have yet to win away this year and Eastleigh are fourth in the National League Premier and unbeaten in their last five.
Eastleigh $3.40 Draw $3.50 Bolton $2.05
Manchester United v Sheffield United
With plenty of off-field distractions and some mediocre on-field performances, Manchester United won’t want to take this game lightly. Sheffield United are Cup specialists, their most recent adventure took them to the semis of the League Cup last year.
With the Blades being the underdog for a change after being the target team of League One since their relegation in 2011, the extra freedom may allow them to thrive on one of Football’s biggest stages and add more pressure on the Manchester United manager.
Manchester United $1.30 Draw $5.00 Sheffield United $11.00
Northampton Town v Milton Keynes
With Championship relegation on the mind of Milton Keynes (20th and two points from the relegation zone), the second-placed side from League Two, Northampton Town, may take full advantage of their home ground draw where they have won seven of their last eight. Milton Keynes did win their first away game this season, but have not won another since.
Northampton $2.80 Draw $3.30 Milton Keynes $2.40
Peterborough v Preston
Probably the pick of the potential League One versus Championship upsets with home ground advantage and Peterborough finding form in League One. There is a good chance of goals too with an average of 3.6 goals per Peterborough game this season and have scored the most goals in the Football League with 52 in 25 games. Preston are 15th in the Championship and their away games have seen a total of just 22 goals in 12 games.
Peterborough $2.63 Draw $3.25 Preston $2.63
Ipswich town v Portsmouth
As much as it pains an Ipswich Town fan to say, we have a very ordinary record in the FA Cup of late, and also have been knocked out by lower league opposition in the League Cup early rounds with regularity in recent seasons. 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth are going well in League Two and have lost just once away this season.
1978 Cup winners Ipswich have just 2 home wins in their last 10 games. A draw looks a real possibility.
Ipswich $1.70 Draw $3.60 Portsmouth $5.00
Oxford United v Swansea City
Another struggling EPL side against a League Two side. The difference to the Aston Villa versus Wycombe game is that Swansea are going slightly better than Villa, but only just. Oxford, too are going slightly better than Wycombe and sit third in the fourth tier.
They have lost just once at home this season too. Swansea have won just once on the road so far this season. With Swansea yet to name a permanent replacement for Garry Monk the ingredients are there for an upset.
Oxford $4.33 Draw $3.50 Swansea $1.80
Here’s the fixture list for you to make your own mind up about, with divisions in brackets. There’s plenty of good match ups that feature teams in the same division.
There’s also the good news that at least one League One and League Two will make it through to the fourth round, where the upsets can start all over again.
Watford 1) versus Newcastle United 1)
Tottenham 1) versus Leicester City 1)
Arsenal 1) versus Sunderland 1)
Southampton 1) versus Crystal Palace 1)
Norwich City 1) versus Manchester City 1)
Sheffield Wed 2) versus Fulham 2)
Nottingham F 2) versus QPR 2)
Leeds United 2) versus Rotherham United 2)
Huddersfield 2) versus Reading 2)
Middlesbrough 2) versus Burnley 2)
Hull City 2) versus Brighton 2)
Bury 3) versus Bradford City 3)
Carlisle U 4) versus Yeovil Town 4)
West Brom 1) versus Bristol City 2)
West Ham U 1) versus Wolves 2)
Manchester U 1) versus Sheffield United 3)
Chelsea 1) versus Scunthorpe United 3)
Everton 1) versus Dagenham 4)
Birmingham C 2) versus AFC Bournemouth 1)
Doncaster 3) versus Stoke City 1)
Exeter City 4) versus Liverpool 1)
Wycombe W 4) versus Aston Villa 1)
Oxford United 4) versus Swansea City 1)
Brentford 2) versus Walsall 3)
Cardiff City 2) versus Shrewsbury Town 3)
Ipswich Town 2) versus Portsmouth 4)
Colchester 3) versus Charlton Athletic 2)
Peterborough 3) versus Preston North End 2)
Hartlepool U 4) versus Derby County 2)
Northampton 4) versus Milton Keynes 2)
Newport Co 4) versus Blackburn Rovers 2)
Eastleigh 5) versus Bolton Wanderers 2)