FA Cup Third Round – where will the shocks lie?

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Tranmere's Connor Jennings celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup, Second Round Replay match at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, Southport.

It’s every football purist’s favourite weekend of the year as the FA Cup Third Round kicks off on Friday evening as high-flying Tottenham Hotspur face League Two new boys Tranmere Rovers.

This season’s draw has thrown up plenty of potential giant-killing opportunities. Here are where the shocks could happen this weekend…

 

Tranmere Rovers vs Tottenham Hotspur

A bumper FA Cup weekend of football kicks off as fourth-tier Tranmere Rovers entertain Tottenham Hotspur under the floodlights at Prenton Park. For all Spurs’ progress, a lack of silverware continues to haunt Mauricio Pochettino.

While the Argentinian is likely to make several changes, he needs to be careful given Rochdale managed to take his side to a Wembley replay in last year’s competition. However, the gulf in class should still prove too much for a Tranmere side performing well in League Two on their return to the football league.

Giant-killing potential: 3/10

 

Sheffield Wednesday vs Luton Town

It may not register as one of the more high-profile FA Cup upsets of the weekend, but the Owls could be vulnerable against a Hatters side currently flying high in League One.

Luton Town’s manager Nathan Jones (left) celebrates after the final whistle.

 

With Wednesday stuck in unusual management limbo with new boss Steve Bruce delaying his start date until February, Nathan Jones’ side may sniff blood and see this game as a good acid-test of their potential Championship credentials.

Giant-killing potential: 7/10

 

Shrewsbury Town vs Stoke City

…or the game that might later be known as ‘Rowett’s Last Stand’.

After a disappointing festive period, big-spenders Stoke find themselves marooned in 14th place, and this match has all the hallmarks of a game that could lose an underperforming manager his job.

Last year, a 2-1 reverse against Coventry proved to be the final curtain for Mark Hughes’ time in the Potteries. Will history repeat itself here?

Giant-killing potential: 8/10

 

Accrington Stanley vs Ipswich

Again, recent form would suggest an Accy win here wouldn’t exactly be the world’s greatest shock given the probability these two sides will most likely be playing each other next season.

Accrington Stanley Manager John Coleman (right) celebrates the League Two league title with assistant manager Jimmy Bell (left).

 

A win for John Coleman’s hugely impressive Stanley side would simply underline the different journeys these two sides have been on over the last two seasons.

Giant-killing potential: 9/10

 

Blackpool vs Arsenal

An FA Cup fixture that feels like it belongs from the golden age of the competition, things are a lot different from the last time these two met at Bloomfield Road on a much more even keel in 2011.

Back then, Blackpool were making a decent fist of their solitary season in the Premier League, but well-publicised off-the-field troubles see them meet the Gunners as a League One club in 2019.

They are currently experiencing a rare season of stability in League One – in 10th place – but look unlikely to trouble an Arsenal side looking for a morale-boosting cup run after a tricky Christmas period.

Giant-killing potential: 3/10

 

Everton vs Lincoln City

Whisper it quietly… is the pressure starting to grow on Marco Silva after something of a flat festive season on Merseyside? Depending on your outlook, this game is either a blessing or a curse for the Portuguese manager – provided he approaches in the right way.

Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley.

 

As current League Two leaders, Lincoln will be full of confidence heading up to Goodison Park and have previous in this competition in knocking out Premier League Burnley in 2017 as a non-league club. A comprehensive win for Everton, however, will help ease some of the pressure growing on the Toffees boss – so expect Silva to take this game seriously.

Giant-killing potential: 5/10

 

Newcastle Utd vs Blackburn Rovers

The ‘Alan Shearer’ derby is one of the more low-key fixtures in this list, but Newcastle’s decidedly dicey FA Cup record (six Third Round exits in 10 years) makes this fixture look interesting in terms of ‘shock value’.

With Rafa likely to rest several players, and Blackburn’s mid-table Championship berth allowing them to approach this game as something of a free hit, could it be yet another season of cup frustration for Magpies fans?

Giant-killing potential: 6/10

 

Woking vs Watford

It’s not been a vintage year for non-league interest in this season’s FA Cup but Watford could prove to be the fall guys in this season’s competition as they go up against National League South outfit Woking FC.

With Watford performing above expectations in the Premier League this season, Javi Gracia has some wriggle room to mount a famous cup run – but will he resist the temptation to rest some of his bigger names?

Martin Tyler commentating on a live game.

 

Lifelong Cardinals fan Martin Tyler will be hoping this is one giant-killing story he won’t be commenting on – as he’ll be coaching Woking from the sidelines.

Giant-killing potential: 7/10

 

Newport County vs Leicester City

Finally, will the Foxes come unstuck amongst the rough and tumble of a game at Rodney Parade? Given recent form, an upset here seems unlikely, with Claude Puel’s side notching up some impressive victories over the winter period over Chelsea and Leicester. Newport’s only win in December came in the FA Cup. They will be hoping Leicester repeat their last performance against a side from across the Severn Bridge – fluffing their lines in a 1-0 home defeat to Premier League strugglers Cardiff City.

Giant-killing potential: 6/10

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