It is one of the biggest weekends in the English football calendar, yet over the past few years, its significance has been watered down due to many top side electing to play under-strength teams in the competitions early rounds.
Yet despite this, for many football fans, FA Cup Third Round weekend, the first weekend in January, is arguably the most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The romance of the competition may be diminished by top Premier League sides opting to field under strength teams, but for many of the smaller sides in the English game, this weekend can represent their own chance at glory, regardless of the team their more illustrious opposition decide to field against them.
Let’s take a look at a little history of the FA Cup before we give you our tips for what promises to be an intriguing weekend of FA Cup football action.
At the end of the article, we’ll give you our picks for betting on this event and of course we recommend doing so on Bet365 – where new players currently are eligible to receive $100 in Bet365 Sports welcome bonuses.
The FA Cup – A short history
The FA Cup is the oldest knockout tournament in the world, first contested back in 1871-72 season when Wanderers became the first team to win the trophy thanks
to a 1-0 victory over Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval.
In the 30 years between 1871 and the turn of the century, the competition grew immensely in popularity. 2,000 fans attended the first FA Cup final but by 1900-01, over 110,000 were in the crowd at Crystal Palace to see Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United draw 2-2 (with Spurs winning 3-1 in a replay a few days later at Burnden Park).
In 1922-23, the final moved to Wembley Stadium, which is now the spiritual home of the competition. This was the famous ‘White Horse’ final, where a single white horse tried to control the vast crowd that had turned up to watch the game between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. The official attendance for that game has been put at 126,047, an FA Cup Final record, but the actual figure for the gate is thought to be anywhere between 150,000 and 300,000.
Since then the only time the final has moved away from Wembley has been for one replay (in 1969-70, when the replay between Chelsea and Leeds was played at Old Trafford) and from 2000-2001 until 2005-2006 when the final was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff due to Wembley being extensively refurbished and updated.
The most successful clubs in FA Cup history are Manchester United and Arsenal, both of whom have won the competition 11 times and have also finished as runners up 7 times apiece. Liverpool have appeared in 14 finals, winning 7 and losing 7 and Newcastle and Everton have appeared in 13 finals apiece, Newcastle winning six and Everton five.
Tottenham Hotspur hold the best strike rate of any team to have won the trophy in modern times, appearing in nine finals, but winning eight of those.
The FA Cup Third Round Preview
Giant-killing is what gives the FA Cup its romance and over the years, there have been many examples of lower league sides surpassing even their wildest dreams to record an unlikely victory against a team from the higher reaches of the game.
This weekend sees a chance for a repeat of one of the most famous shock results, when AFC Wimbledon, a club that rose from the ashes of the now defunct Wimbledon FC, who in 1988, shocked the world when beating hot favourites Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. The 1988 Final saw Wimbledon in the top flight of the English game, but Liverpool were the Champions and the strong favourites, but a Lawrie Sanchez header handed victory to the underdogs.
This time around, AFC Wimbledon are 13th in League Two, having enjoyed a swift rise through the divisions after being formed by disgruntled fans of Wimbledon, angry that the clubs owners decided to base their operations in Milton Keynes. They will take on a Liverpool side struggling for form under Brendan Rodgers and who lie in 11th place in the Premier League table at the time of writing. R
odgers team certainly will not relish their trip back to London against a team that holds more than a few ghosts for the men from Anfield.
Non-league Gateshead could cause one of the biggest shocks in recent years if they can beat West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, while League Two Tranmere Rovers, who were bottom of the league recently, could emerge with an unlikely win against Premier League Swansea City.
Yeovil Town’s famous Huish Park pitch will not be the ideal place for Manchester United to visit, especially after their last game against lower league opponents ended in a 4-0 humiliation against MK Dons.
Dover Athletic could cause a big surprise if they can defeat Premier League Crystal Palace, while Arsenal begin the defence of their trophy by taking on the team they defeated in the 2013-2014 final, Hull City at the Emirates Stadium.
Finally, non-league Wrexham will be hoping for another FA Cup miracle when they take on Mark Hughes Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in what is another game that looks like a potential banana skin for the Premier League side.
Top FA Cup Third Round Weekend Tips
The first thing to note about our tips is that many Premier League sides will face a very busy schedule of games over the Christmas and New Year period. From the Boxing Day on the 26th December, all Premier League teams will be in action on the 26th, 28th and 1st January with three matches in the space of a week.
As such, with the FA Cup slated to start on the weekend of the 3rd, it is highly likely that many Premier League teams will rest players for these games. While this does make tipping a tad more difficult, it does mean that the chance of a giant killing do increase.
Possible Giant-killer bets
If you are looking for a giant killer bet then there are a couple of bets that really stick out. Ideally, you want a top side heading away from home to a lower league side, lacking form and confidence and likely to play on a tricky pitch against a lower league side who have nothing to lose and ideally a bit of confidence. As such, three games stand out to me as potential giant killings in the making:
Yeovil v Manchester United, Tranmere Rovers v Swansea City and AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool.
Of the three, it is the Tranmere Rovers v Swansea City game that most appeals. Rovers may be near the foot of League Two, but their recent form under Micky Adams is vastly improved. Rovers also possess a formidable pedigree of giant-killing, having knocked out a large number of top sides from both the FA Cup and Carling Cup, especially around the turn of the millennium.
Swansea boss Garry Monk doesn’t have the biggest squad in the world to pick from and certainly the Swans are likely to prioritise the Premier League, which means I think they will field a considerably weakened team for the trip to Birkenhead. So if you are looking for a potential giant killing this weekend, have a few quid on Tranmere Rovers but most of all sit back and enjoy what is always one of the best weekends of football action of the season.
“The FA Cup Trophy” by Carlos yo – CC by S.A 2.0