The third round of the FA Cup is upon us. And while it sometimes can seem like an unwelcome interruption to the constant storyline changes of the English Premier League, the FA Cup has its own compelling storylines. Even though Arsenal has won back-to-back FA Cups, the tournament has been prone to upsets and occasionally seeing the richest and most talented players play at a rustic stadium that hasn’t been renovated in decades. In the 2013 Final, Wigan won the FA Cup against Manchester City even though they were relegated a week later.
In addition, this tournament gives some lower league teams a chance to not only upset a big time team, but make a lot of money that they never would have dreamed of in the process. While a top team may not be as concerned with the prize money and revenue compared to the EPL, a team like League Two’s Cambridge United made enough money to last them for the foreseeable future by simply playing two games against Manchester United and collecting TV money as well as 50% of ticket revenue by playing at Old Trafford. To those teams, this is when they can really make their season.
For the third round, Championship and EPL teams enter and this is when the real fun and magic happens. We have all EPL matchups as well as mismatched teams screaming for upsets. Here is what you can expect to see on TV this weekend.
Exeter City (League Two) vs. Liverpool (Premier League) – Friday 2:30 PM ET on FS1
If there was anyone who could possibly get the upset on a big team, it’s Exeter City. While they are languishing low in League Two, Liverpool is at its most vulnerable. After injuries to Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure just a few days ago in the Capital One semifinal against Stoke, they add to the growing list of Liverpool injuries. Manager Jurgen Klopp is likely going to be stuck playing youth players and Jose Enrique (yes, he’s still on the team) to try and survive against the 16th place team in League Two.
Wycombe Wanderers (League Two) vs. Aston Villa (Premier League) – Saturday 7:30 AM ET on FS1
Why this game is on TV, I have no clue. But if you want to possibly see another upset of an EPL team (maybe that’s the reason), choosing the worst team in the EPL at the moment is a good strategy. Although if you are up at 7:30 AM in the East, 4:30 AM in the West and watching this game, you are a diehard fan.
Arsenal (Premier League) vs. Sunderland (Premier League) – Saturday 10:00 AM ET on FS1
Here we go, an all-EPL matchup. Arsenal begins their chance at a three-peat against relegation fighters Sunderland. While this is an all-EPL matchup, it’ll likely be an easy Arsenal win. Sunderland is trying to not relegate from the Premier League so they are going to be more focused on that and not a third round game against Arsenal. Stranger things have happened and Sunderland could win but there are other upsets out there in the other 31 games that will likely happen.
Doncaster Rovers (League One) vs. Stoke City (Premier League) – Saturday 10 AM ET on FS2
Doncaster Rovers is at home and they go against a team that just played in the Capital One Cup. While it’ll still be tough, Doncaster has a chance to win. And hey, if they get the draw, that means even more revenue by going to the Britannia Stadium even though winning would be much, much harder.
Eastleigh (Conference Premier) vs. Bolton Wanderers (Championship) – Saturday 10 AM ET on FSP
Eastleigh is the only non-Football League team still alive in the FA Cup and they are rewarded with a televised game against likely administration bound Bolton. If anything, it’ll be a interesting to watch this game from a stadium that only has 2,700 seating capacity.
Manchester United (Premier League) vs. Sheffield United (League One) – Saturday 12:30 PM ET on FS2
If this game had happened a couple weeks ago, Sheffield United would have been licking their chops and maybe had a chance to pull off the upset. Now, as United seem to slowly get their scoring boots back, that may not seem to be the case. Ah well, Sheffield United get a pretty good payday and if they somehow beat Man United, it’s a great bonus.
Oxford United (League Two) vs. Swansea City (Premier League) – Sunday 7:00 AM ET on FS1
The early game of the day. Oxford United, in third place, is going on a promotion run into League One. They must be careful not to be too focused on the FA Cup when there is a possibility to move up.
Chelsea (Premier League) vs. Scunthorpe United (League One) – Sunday 9:00 AM ET on FS1
Similar to Manchester United, if this was a couple weeks ago, Scunthorpe United would have a chance for the upset. Now, that doesn’t seem as likely. But like Sheffield United, Scunthorpe United will get the revenue from TV and ticket sales from Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League) vs. Leicester City (Premier League) – Sunday 11:00 AM ET on FS1
Here we go, the matchup of the weekend. The fourth place and second place team face off just three days before they play again in league play, also at White Hart Lane. The game will be overshadowed by the absence of Jamie Vardy due to injury but there is a chance he would be back for Wednesday’s league game. Even though this will feature arguably the two hottest teams in England, the lack of Vardy will leave some open ended questions in terms of who the better team really is.