Romance of the FA Cup

Mahrez could be the key man for Leicester against Tottenham tomorrow.

What do Portsmouth and Wigan have in common when it comes to the English FA Cup? They are the only two teams who are so called minnows that have gone on to lift the cup in the last decade.

The FA Cup has always been dominated by the big guns in the English Premier League.

Arsenal have won it twice in a row while Chelsea and Man City have also emerged champions in recent years. So will it be the same again this year? The answer will be yes, most likely. Depending on the luck of the draw, expect the big teams, Man Utd, Liverpool and Tottenham included, to be the favourites again when the final is played at Wembley in May.

The FA Cup has always brought with it the odd shock result and this season will again be no different looking at the draw.

EPL basement side Aston Villa are in danger of being beaten at fourth tier Wycombe while Swansea City too face an awkard away tie against minnows Oxford United, also from the fourth division. Stoke are another EPL side who face a tough task when they visit third division side Doncaster Rovers.

The FA Cup third round draw also pitted five all-top-flight ties. EPL leaders Arsenal entertain strugglers Sunderland while in the pick of the clashes, high-flying Leicester City go to fourth-place Tottenham.

Man City play host to Norwich, Southampton welcome Crystal Palace to St Mary’s while the Watford are at home to Newcastle in the other all EPL match-ups.

The highlight of this round is surely the tie at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and Leicester. Both teams are currently the form teams in the EPL and Leicester especially, have been the surprise package this season.

Led by the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, Claudio Ranieri’s side have turned the form book upside down with their fearless and flowing football. Vardy will not be in the squad for tomorrow’s game as the Leicester striker needs surgery on a groin problem.

It will be a big blow for his team but I somehow feel that their ultimate target this season is to continue their momentum in the league. This is reason enough for me to tip Harry Kane and Co to come out tops in this cup tie.

Remi Garde’s Aston Villa needs a confidence booster and a win against Wycombe to lift the morale of his team. Villa have not won in 15 games and the bookies are not giving Villa any chance of staying up in the EPL, so chances are they will be playing in the Championship next season.

But the Frenchman needs to play a full-strength team in order to beat their League Two host and if he does, then I see Villa edging today’s early match.

The news that Alan Curtis will remain in charge of Swansea until the end of the season will lift the players as the aim to avoid a potential banana skin against high-flying League Two opposition Oxford.

Swanse’s chairman Huw Jenkins have so far failed to persuade the bookies favourite to take over at The Liberty Stadium, Argentine Marcelo Biesla, after Garry Monk was dismissed.

There is nothing worse than players being in a limbo about their managers future, so the Swansea players will be happy to know that things are settled until the season ends in May.

I forsee a draw in this game as Oxford are doing well in League Two in third place so a potential stalement is on the cards, with Swansea winning the replay.

Stoke will have to pick themselves up from their 2-1 loss to Liverpool in midweek in the League Cup semifinals first leg clash at the Britania Stadium to avoid a shock exit at the hands of League One side Doncaster Rovers.

This is another tie that has the potential of a “cupset” and if the Potters play like they did on Tuesday then chances are they will get beaten.

It was a listless display by Mark Hughes side against Liverpool but with the attacking trio of Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri, they should have too much for Doncaster.

The only non-league side left in the cup is Eastleigh. The will fancy their chances when they host struggling Championship side Bolton Wanderers.

They are bottom of the log and deeply in debt with reports that players and staff have not been paid for a while now. I somehow do not see an upset in this fixture.

The FA Cup matches this week will certainly be intense and keenly fought. I am hoping for a shock or two but I am praying it won’t be at Old Trafford where Man Utd entertain League One side Sheffield United.

This is certainly the best chance for Louis van Gaal to win a trophy and I cannot imagine Man Utd losing today. The medical leave is on standby for Monday if we lose.

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