FA Cup preview: Third round drama expected as underdogs seek to shock the giants

Chelsea v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Final

Tranmere boss Micky Mellon has no doubt Friday’s FA Cup third-round tie against Tottenham is “massive” in terms of helping the League Two club continue rebuilding.

Rovers sealed a return to League Two via the National League play-offs last term – their third season in the division following the back-to-back relegations of 2013-14 and 2014-15 – and are currently lying ninth.

Former Tranmere player Mellon, who took charge in October 2016, says they are “in the process of growing again.”

And when asked if a tie like the televised Spurs clash at a sold-out Prenton Park could propel them further forward, Mellon said: “Yes, it does.

“Not just finances-wise, because it’s about announcing that we’re still here. It puts Tranmere back in the eyeline of footballing people, players, all the rest of it."

Unai Emery insists his Arsenal side will show respect to Blackpool as he looks to avoid a “dark day” when he takes charge of his first FA Cup tie on Saturday.

The Spaniard replaced Arsene Wenger – the most successful manager in the history of the FA Cup with seven wins – last summer and is set for his first taste of the competition at Bloomfield Road this weekend.

Blackpool sit 10th in Sky Bet League One with off-the-field matters still dominating the goings on for the Tangerines.

But, after seeing off Terry McPhillips’ side 2-1 in a tight Carabao Cup meeting earlier in the season, Emery wants to make sure he does not endure a similar afternoon as he did when his Sevilla side were embarrassed by third-tier Racing Santander in a 2013 Copa del Rey tie.

Arsenal v Blackpool - Carabao Cup Fourth Round

“In my experience I also have one dark day in some competitions and I don’t like it,” Emery said when asked if he was aware of the term “giant-killing”.

“For example we lost with Sevilla against one team in the third division in Spain in one cup. I remember that."

Lincoln boss Danny Cowley is looking forward to resuming the role of FA Cup underdog against Everton.

Two years ago the Imps, then a non-league team, staged an incredible run to the quarter-finals of the competition.

Arsenal v Lincoln City - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final

They accounted for top-level opposition in the shape of Brighton and Burnley, winning at Turf Moor, along the way before finally succumbing to Arsenal in the last eight.

Cowley’s side, now top of the League Two table, are looking to claim another big scalp at Goodison Park on Saturday, but the 40-year-old is under no illusion of the size of that task.

“He (Everton manager Marco Silva) has an unbelievable squad at his disposal, some world-class players, but we’ve got world-class people,” said Cowley.

“It’ll be good to be underdogs. We’ve enjoyed being underdogs all of our lives. We’re looking forward to it."

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fifth game in charge of Manchester United is an FA Cup third-round clash with Championship strugglers Reading on Saturday, where he will use the opportunity to rotate his squad.

Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will start, but in-form Paul Pogba, who may well have been rested anyway, is unlikely to be available because he is still feeling the effects of Jonjo Shelvey’s controversial challenge in the victory over Newcastle on Wednesday.

“There’ll be a few changes,” said Solskjaer.

“They’ll get a chance, some of them that are itching to play. Get Lukaku a start, get Sanchez a start. That’s important for them because they need more game time.”


Solskjaer won the cup as a player and is targeting silverware as a manager, saying: “We’re about winning trophies of course."

Bournemouth hosts Brighton in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, which is a fixture Jermain Defoe would most likely have been set to feature in if it wasn't for his imminent switch to Rangers.

Howe confirmed he was set to rotate the side for the cup tie following the midweek 3-3 draw against Watford.

“There will be changes to the team, this game comes for after a lot of games for clubs,” the Bournemouth boss said.

Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

There is, however, no chance Howe will take the competition lightly.

“We’re all looking forward to the game. The (FA Cup) third round is always a mark on the football calendar, so it’s great to be at home and we want the same attacking flair from Wednesday,” he said.

Newport manager Michael Flynn hopes Claude Puel risks FA Cup humiliation by sending out a weakened Leicester team at Rodney Parade.

Leicester boss Puel was heavily criticised for his Carabao Cup quarter-final selection last month when his understrength side were beaten on penalties against makeshift Manchester City opponents.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League

Foxes fans felt it was a missed opportunity to win some silverware, and Flynn is hoping history repeats itself in the third-round tie in south Wales.

“I hope they change things,” Flynn said. “Let’s not dress it up, we need them to rest a few.

“Jamie Vardy is probably the one player I do want them to rest."

Neil Warnock has told his Cardiff squad not to become an “FA Cup headline” at Gillingham.

Leicester City v Cardiff City - Premier League

Cardiff have become accustomed to playing the role of Premier League underdogs this season following their promotion to the top flight last May.

But the Bluebirds take on the mantle of FA Cup giants on Saturday when they make a third-round trip to Sky Bet League One side Gillingham.

“There’ll be changes to the team, that’s for sure, but I want to progress in the competition and we’ll be taking a strong squad to Kent,” boss Warnock told cardiffcityfc.co.uk.

“It’s good to be favourites, but you don’t want to be a statistic.

Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

“We don’t want to be a headline this weekend, that’s for sure.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl knows he must strike the right balance between pursuing progress in the FA Cup and fighting for Premier League survival.

Despite picking up a potentially important point from a goalless draw at Chelsea on Wednesday night, the Saints find themselves in the bottom three.

Hasenhuttl, who accepts he is performing a juggling act with his squad, confirmed he will make changes for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Sky Bet Championship promotion-hopefuls Derby.


“It’s a fantastic experience for me. It’s a famous cup, a traditional cup. When I was a child in Austria, I would always see the FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium,” said the Austrian.

“It’s important, because I think our supporters are very proud about if we can make it through a few rounds, maybe until the final.

“So we try to find a good balance between fighting for our life in the Premier League and also having a good eye on the FA Cup.”

Woking manager Alan Dowson has described his cup record as “absolutely hopeless” ahead of the sold-out FA Cup clash with Premier League club Watford.

AFC Bournemouth v Watford FC - Premier League

The sixth-tier Cards, who sit second in the Vanarama National League South, are the lowest ranked club in the third round of the competition.

Dowson, who guided his in-form team past Sky Bet League Two side Swindon in the last round, offered a frank assessment of his previous experience of cup runs.

“When I got interviewed for the job I came in and said, ‘at my three different clubs I’ve got promoted but count the cup out because I’m crap at it, I’m useless, I’m absolutely minging’,” said Dowson, who was appointed last May.

“I was as a player, I was as a manager, I got done first round every single time, I’m absolutely hopeless. I don’t think they were too impressed actually. I probably didn’t sell myself very well.

Rotherham manager Paul Warne has called on his side to make a name for themselves when they visit Manchester City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.

Norwich City v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship

The Championship’s Millers travel to the Etihad Stadium hoping to cause a major shock against arguably the best team in England.

Not many people will give them much hope of success, but Warne hopes his side can muster some magic.

“I know whatever XI I put out on Sunday, they will give it a right go,” Warne said. “(We can win) with a little bit of magic and a wry smile.

“We know how phenomenal they are, but our saving grace is in football you don’t have to be the best team to win, it’s an unfair sport.

“You don’t have to be the best team, you don’t have to create the most chances, you don’t have to have the most possession, you just have to score more.

“Whether we can go to Man City and score numerous goals I don’t know.

“It’s a break from the Championship and the pressure of that, it’s not a day out but it is a day they can remember for the rest of their careers.

“I’ll send the lads out with positivity and hopefully they can make a right name for themselves."

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