FA Cup Third Round: Top Five Potential Upsets

It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated weekend on the British sporting calendar, and it gets underway tomorrow evening at St James’ Park (the Exeter City version).

Yes, it’s the FA Cup third round and, despite eight rounds of action having already taken place prior, this is when the competition truly begins for many supporters, since it’s where the Premier League and Championship big boys enter the fray. That opens up the potential for major ‘giant-killings’ which, as fans, we relish (unless your team is on the receiving end).

Therefore, I deemed it rather fitting to pick out the five third-round ties with the biggest potential upsets and rank them in order of “shock value” (with one being the most shocking).

To save you the effort, some potential giant-killings that didn’t make the cut include: Doncaster Rovers vs. Stoke City; Eastleigh vs. Bolton Wanderers; Ipswich Town vs. Portsmouth; Newport County vs. Blackburn; Northampton Town vs. Milton Keynes Dons; Oxford United vs. Swansea City; Wycombe Wanderers vs. Aston Villa.

FA Cup Third Round: Top Five Potential Upsets


Now, on to the list (all kickoff times in GMT):

  1. Hartlepool United vs. Derby County (Saturday – 15:00)

This is the only tie on this list not to feature a Premier League side. I chose this over the matches involving top-flight strugglers, Swansea and Villa, because of the Rams’ promotion-chasing exploits in the Championship under boss, Paul Clement, and Hartlepool hovering just two places above the relegation zone in League Two. However, form often goes out the window in this competition, despite the Teessiders needing a replay to see off non-league Salford City in the last round. Meanwhile, Nick Blackman – transferred from Reading this week – could make his debut for Derby.


  1. Chelsea vs. Scunthorpe United (Sunday – 14:00)

Remember Bradford City last year? Of course you do, but Chelsea fans won’t want to. That 4-2 defeat in the fourth round last year may give the Blues players extra incentive not to be embarrassed by a League One side at home in the Cup for a second year running, but beware of its magic. Side note: Scunny manager, Mark Robins, scored the winning goal for Manchester United against Nottingham Forest at this stage of the FA Cup 26 years ago, which (many said) saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job and led to them lifting the trophy that year.


  1. Manchester United vs. Sheffield United (Saturday – 17:30)

While on the subject of the Red Devils, their manager, Louis van Gaal, will be under pressure to bring silverware to Old Trafford, as it’s now nearly three seasons without a trophy (if you don’t include the 2013 Community Shield). That pressure and Man Utd’s goal-scoring woes (bar last week’s 2-1 win over Swansea) could open the door for the Blades. They have strong recent history in Cup competitions after reaching the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup last season, and the last four of the FA Cup two seasons ago (plus a quarter final appearance in the FA Cup last campaign).


  1. Exeter City vs. Liverpool (Friday – 19:55)

Another big club currently going through a long (by their standards) trophy-less spell. It will be four years next month since Liverpool beat Cardiff City on penalties to win the League Cup. They still have a chance to win that trophy this year but Jürgen Klopp will try and make sure his first experience of the world’s oldest Cup competition isn’t a bad one. The Grecians were themselves on the receiving end of a major Cup upset last season when they lost 1-0 to Warrington Town in the first round. They, therefore, will be keen to inflict the same sort of damage on the Reds this time around.


  1. Everton vs. Dagenham and Redbridge (Saturday – 15:00)


The biggest potential banana skin, in my view, could happen in the blue half of Merseyside. Despite having a leaky defence of late (particularly at home), Everton should have enough firepower to see them through, even though the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, etc. might be rested after their 2-1 win over Manchester City in their midweek League Cup semi-final first leg. Meanwhile, the Daggers lie second from bottom in League Two, and were nearly knocked out in the second round by Whitehawk of the National League South.


However, in this famous old tournament, it would be foolish to write them (or any of the other ‘minnows’ on this list) off; sit back and enjoy the madness that is FA Cup third round weekend.


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