David vs Goliath FA Cup third round previews
Manchester City started off the Emirates FA Cup third round fixtures with an emphatic 5-0 win over the Hammers. By no means was this a Premier League giant against a wee football club; after all, it was only 5-time-finalists, West Ham. In this article, I will be previewing some of the possible upsets in this year's FA Cup third round fixtures.
Barrow v Rochdale (Saturday 7th January, 3pm)
50 places separate these two teams in the English football league. With Rochdale surpassing expectations in the Skybet League 1 this season sitting in 4th place, they'll definitely be looking to fulfil expectations by putting a few past the Barrow back four. Manager Keith Hill and Midfielder Matty Lund have just been named Manager and Player of the month for December in Skybet League 1, for their respective efforts in helping the Greater Manchester club reach an impressive 5 game-winning run. Manager, Hill, will be expecting his team to coast past the Bluebirds.
Barrow, on the other hand, have only won one game in their past 5; defeating Harrogate Town 4-2 in a FA Trophy 1st Round reply tie last month. Despite their recent poor form, Rochdale will be looking to keep a close eye on Barrow's sharp goalscorer, Byron Harrison, having netted 17 times this season already. Harrison is currently the Vanarama's National League's second top goalscorer, 7 behind Dover's Ricky Miller. Barrow also boast having the league's second-best defensive record - conceding only 24 goals in 25 games in the league so far. Barrow will be looking to move on from being second best and becoming top dogs in reaching the fourth round of the competition.
Brentford v Eastleigh (Saturday 7th January, 3pm)
Eastleigh, another representative from England's fifth tier will be looking to provide another cup upset having knocked out League 1 Swindon in a replay in the previous round. Having not performed spectacularly in the league this season (currently sitting in 11th position with a mediocre 39 points from 26 games), they'll be looking to carry on their Emirates FA Cup campaign which would be of high financial value to the south coast squad. It could be a long day at the office for Eastleigh having struggled of late and with no proven goalscorer in their ranks.
Brentford currently sit in a comfortable 14th in the Skybet Championship. Securing their 2nd tier status in recent history has been crucial to their development as a club, something club owner Matthew Benham will be more than pleased with following their promotion from League 1 in 2014. Key man, Alan Judge, has been linked with January transfer window moves to promotion hopefuls Newcastle and Brighton with impressive performances this season, finding the net 14 times in 40 appearances from midfield. Judge will be a key player for Brentford and will certainly have to show up against a spirited Eastleigh side if they are to progress to the fourth round.
Liverpool v Plymouth (Sunday 8th January, 1:30pm)
Arguably the tie of the round. Despite being 4 leagues apart in the English system, both teams are flying high in their league with Liverpool sitting second in the Premier League whilst Plymouth also entertain second place in Skybet League 2. Jurgen Klopp can't seem to do much wrong so far this season. Beating the likes of City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs in the past 5 months has given the Merseyside team in red faith that they can beat anyone. However, the reds are no strangers in suffering surprise defeats this season, having fallen to the hands of Bournemouth and Burnley already. Daniel Sturridge may see this fixture as a chance to cement his position in the side with Divock Origi performing well of late.
Derek Adams will be pleased with his Plymouth side who have lost only 1 of their past 7 games. His side will be relishing the chance of playing in front of the Kop, hoping to provide a cup upset and progressing through to the fourth round for the first time since 2008. Argyle keeper, Luke McCormick, will be hoping to continue his impressive record of 15 clean sheets in 27 appearances this season. He'll be looking to keep the attacking force of a Liverpool side, who have scored 48 goals so far this campaign, at bay.
Chelsea v Peterborough (Sunday 8th January, 3pm)
With Chelsea running away with the Premier League mid-January, this looks a tough fixture for Peterborough. They have had a mixed season so far with fans favourite, Grant McCann, taking the reigns at the club. The Posh has boasted attacking talents in the past 5 years which include George Boyd, Dwight Gayle, Britt Assombalonga, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean. Paul Taylor (having returned to Peterborough for a second spell with the club) currently leads the line with Tom Nichols looking forward to providing a problem for the Chelsea back 3. Peterborough's last FA Cup tie against a Premier League team came in 2011 with a 6-2 loss against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Whether or not Chelsea will prioritise the FA Cup this season remains debatable. With crucial Premier League games coming up in the next 4 weeks against Liverpool and Arsenal, it's expected that Antonio Conte will put out a weaker side to ensure their Premier League title hopes are not tarnished in the least. This FA Cup tie may open the door for striker Michy Batshuayi to show Chelsea fans that he is worth the £33 million price tag he incurred moving from Marseille in the summer.