Normally by this stage of an A-League season, with just a handful of matches remaining before the semi-finals, form lines have been well and truly set.
One of sport’s greatest sporting weekends is here as the FA Cup third Round is played out across England and Wales.
Like a lot of Football fans I am looking forward to the potential FA Cup third round upsets as the Championship and EPL teams join the competition for the first time.
The FA Cup third round is one of the very few times that some take more than a fleeting interest in anything lower than the EPL. The only other time is when three of the Championship teams get promoted to the EPL.
Magic of the FA Cup is a cliched term thrown around by media desperate to make the FA Cup third round more interesting than it probably is to mainstream football fans, but there is something undeniably fascinating about it for a huge sports nerd, or for the many Football League fans waiting to go on an FA Cup run, or for just one day pull the pants down of an EPL big shot.
There’s also the chance to try and pick a myriad of FA Cup third round upsets, also known as Cupsets. And there’s nothing like following a few roughies at something ridiculous o’clock in the morning in Australia.
Plus there’s nothing like the smugness of correctly picking a Cupsets based on the knowledge of the lower divisions.
Think of the many, many people that will be impressed when you tell them about all the FA Cup third round upsets you have picked.
Or at least the joy of following one of the great annual sporting competitions at its best stage.
Previous FA Cup third round stats
Everyone likes a bite sized stat to go with fleeting interest, so here’s a few.
In the past seven third rounds of the FA Cup there have been 43 wins for sides over a team in a higher division. Some of the more interesting bits are below.
Around 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 six editions.
The biggest category for upset is League One (third) beating Championship (second) with two a year on average. Just one last season.
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. Last year it was three, although three other sides needed replays to get through.
Six non-League teams have beaten higher opposition in the past seven seasons. Last year two sides – Lincoln City and Sutton United beat higher opposition at the second attempt.
Last season’s biggest upsets were the Non League sides Lincoln City and Sutton United getting past Ipswich and Wimbledon after replays, and EPL sides Bournemouth, West Brom and Stoke beaten taken down by Millwall, Derby and Wolves.
Three EPL sides needed replays to get past lower league sides last year too. Liverpool for the second year running needed a replay against a fourth tier side, the Pilgrims of Plymouth causing annoyance last year. Crystal Palace and Southampton did get past their lower league opposition eventually.
Sadly, there are no Non league sides in the FA Cup third Round this year.
Not completely about the FA Cup third Round, but Friday night is the night for upsets. In the past five seasons, including this year’s cup, in the first three rounds the record for lower league sides against higher opposition is 18 Games: six upsets, seven draws, five expected wins. The only potential upset on a Friday night this season is Manchester United versus Derby County,
Pick of the potential Cupsets
Time to put the money where the mouth is and call out a host of games where an upset is a real chance. just a few to share among friends.
The run down, and bold prediction are below. Division of side are in brackets.
Derby County (2) v Man United (1)
It wasn’t long ago that Manchester United were knocked out of the League Cup by an in form Championship side in Bristol City, and they face another one in the FA Cup third Round this weekend as the Rams of Derby County come to Old Trafford.
Derby County are top of the last six form charts in their division, and have hauled themselves up to second in the second tier and are on a run of seven without defeat.
Surely after the Bristol City defeat Jose Mourinho will ensure that Manchester United win this weekend’s game, and despite a very respectable away record in the Championship (13-5-6-2) the fact that the game is at Old Trafford means Derby County’s chances are that little bit less likely.
Prediction – Draw hope at best for Derby County
Shrewsbury (3) v West Ham (1)
Shrewsbury Town are one of the good stories from the Football League this season. They only just survived in League One the previous season, and were among the favourites for relegation before the start of the season.
Months later and the early leaders of League One are still second and their home record is one that will put the pressure on West Ham, whose focus is likely to be on EPL survival.
Shrewsbury Town’s home record this year stands at 12 games ten wins one draw one loss, and have conceded just four goals in the process. Sure, it against third tier opposition, but who knows what quality of side David Moyes will put out at the New Meadow this Sunday.
Prediction – An upset win to Shrewsbury Town
Wolves (2) v Swansea (1)
This one is hardly an upset with the leaders of the Championship in Wolverhampton Wanderers the hot favourites in betting to beat Swansea who sit last in the EPL. But it would still be a second tier side disposing of an top flight side.
Wolves are looking like a side who is ready to play EPL now, and they get a taste of what looks likely for next season by defeating Swansea this weekend. Swansea like a team who are ready to swap places.
Prediction – Wolves win
Luton Town (4) v Newcastle (1)
Luton Town, the League Two leaders, have scored 62 goals in 26 games so far this season, and have 41 from 13 home games. Newcastle at less than a goal a game with 20 in 22. Newcastle don’t ever seen to progress far in the FA Cup, and look a real chance of a big upset loss here.
In fact Newcastle haven’t won an FA Cup third Round at the first attempt since 2012, with their best result a draw against second tier Birmingham last season. Luton did beat the West Ham Academy in the Football League Trophy last month 4-0, so if Newcastle serve up anything other than their best side they are in real danger of extending their awful third Round record.
Prediction – Luton Town to down Toon.
Wycombe Wanderers (4) v Preston North End (2)
Wycombe Wanderers are currently going well in the fourth tier, sitting fourth and in reasonable form, and a good home record. Preston North End are currently ninth in the Championship, with a decent away record (they are currently fifth on away form).
But for us the big story is about a big man, Football’s strongest player, Wycombe’s Adebayo Akinfenwa. The man known as The Beast has been playing in the lower divisions for a decade and a half, and is in fine form this season with 12 goals already and plenty of assists. He has previously terrorised Liverpool and Tottenham in the FA Cup, specifically last year at White Hart Lane where the Chairboys came very close to a stunning upset.
The Beast is worth a look on Youtube, and hopefully a win this weekend and a favourable draw means we might get another glimpse of him against an EPL giant.
Prediction – A big performance from the big man Adebayo “The Beast” Akinfenwa, and a Wycombe Wanderers win or draw.
Fulham (2) v Southampton (1)
Despite Fulham only sitting 10th in the Championship, they are a decent side, and have some very good players, one in particular getting plenty of attention from EPL clubs heading into the Transfer Window – Ryan Sessegnon.
Fulham are also on a run of four straight wins at home, and scored four goals in seven minutes during a midweek win over Ipswich. Southampton have no such winning form as they are currently on a run of nine games without a win in the EPL. Their away form isn’t great either as they have just one win under the belts on the road this season.
Prediction – Fulham to win
Bristol City (2) v Watford (1)
Bristol City have already beaten Manchester United in the League Cup, and should fancy themselves to beat another EPL side in the FA Cup third Round this weekend in the shape of Watford.
Bristol City’s win over Manchester United was at home, and they travel to Watford this weekend, but their away form is very good as they have the third best away record of the division (13-6-5-2).
They have lost their last two games, and with a big League Cup semi final against Manchester City coming up, you could forgive Bristol City if they didn’t get another upset this weekend. Watford aren’t in great form either, with six losses and one win from their last seven games. The Hornets home record is pretty poor too, sitting fourth last on home form this season.
Prediction – All depends on who takes this game more seriously. Watford to win.
Wigan (3) v Bournemouth (1)
Not long ago these teams were in each others division, Wigan won the FA Cup and were relegated in the same year, and have been relegated, promoted and relegated again from the Championship. Bournemouth have been one of English Football’s nice stories, rising from almost relegated out of the Football League to EPL in under a decade.
Wigan Athletic look to be on their way back to at least the second tier at the moment, currently leading League One and looking strong. Wigan’s away form isn’t bad either with a record of 12 Games – 9-1-2.
Bournemouth’s home form isn’t great, having won just the three games so far this season, and were soundly beaten by League One opposition last season in the FA Cup third Round after fielding a weakened side against Millwall. Will they do the same again this weekend, and tempt fate of a cupset?
Prediction – Draw and then a Home win to Wigan.
Exeter (4) v West Brom (1)
West Bromwich Albion peaked early in the EPL this season with two wins to start the season. The problem is that they haven’t won again since, a run of 20 games without a win. A new manager hasn’t fixed the results yet, and most would forgive the Baggies to concentrate on getting themselves out of the EPL bottom three over the FA Cup third round.
They were beaten by Derby County at this stage last season, and have just one win on the road this year. But surely they can beat a fourth division side and give Alan Pardew a first win in charge.
Exeter currently sit in the last of the playoff places in League Two in seventh, and their home form is slightly more impressive with 9 wins from 12 games, but beating an EPL side like West Brom still looks a step too far.
Prediction – West Brom to find some form with a win.
Blackburn (3) v Hull City (2)
Separated by a division but only six places in the English Footballing pyramid, this is another match where the League One side has a real chance. Blackburn are that League One side, and are currently sitting third and on a run of 14 games without defeat.
Just the two losses at home early in the season. Hull away by contrast, have just the solitary win on the road this season in the division above.
Prediction – Blackburn win.
Stevenage (4) v Reading (2)
Stevenage do have some history of upsets, and Reading are not travelling that well. The Royals of Reading have done well in previous seasons, but come into this weekend with the worst last six form in the Championship.
Stevenage, who lie 15th in League Two are hardly going much better, but their home form sees them with just two defeats so far this season.
Prediction – Reading to sneak a win.
Bolton (2) v Huddersfield (1)
Huddersfield have done well in the EPL so far, but they face a tricky match against Bolton, who are on a decent run of form in the Championship. Decent enough to haul themselves off the bottom of the Championship table.
Bolton are fourth on last six Home Form. Huddersfield have won just once on the road since their first away fixture in August. They may prefer to concentrate on EPL survival instead of the FA Cup third Round.
Prediction – Bolton to win
Third round TV games
Why not watch a game or two this weekend, with a massive seven on offer for the FA Cup third round? Times for Australia.
ESPN 508 – SAT 6:50AM/5:50AM – Liverpool v Everton
ESPN2 509 – SAT 6:55AM/5:55AM – Manchester United v Derby County
ESPN 508 – SAT 11:40PM/10:40PM – Fleetwood Town v Leicester
ESPN 508 – SUN 1:55AM/12:55AM – Manchester City v Burnley
ESPN 508 – SUN 4:25AM/3:25AM – Norwich v Chelsea
ESPN2 509 – MON 12:55AM/11:55PM – Shrewsbury v West Ham
ESPN2 509 – MON 2:55AM/1:55AM – Arsenal v Notts Forest