|The FA Cup|
Arsenal v Leeds:
Two great clubs with great history will clash at the Emirates on Saturday. While one has fallen quite spectacularly from grace, the other finds itself chasing Man Utd for the Premiership title. A forgone conclusion then? I'm not so sure. Arsenal have not been entirely convincing at home this season and Leeds are a tough side to face on their day. They will be pumped up for this game and could, with a bit of luck, pull off a big upset here. Arsenal are the favourites of course, but keep your eyes on this one. Leeds have already proven they are giant killers after dumping Man Utd out of the FA Cup at this point last year.
Brighton v Portsmouth:
South coast rivals Brighton and Portsmouth face each other this saturday in what should be a fiery affair. Red hot Brighton, who top League One, will find themselves to be the underdogs in this game despite the fact that Portsmouth, 18th in the Championship, are struggling at the moment. I fancy Brighton in this one although manager, Gus Poyet, will surely ring some changes as he has one eye on the League One title race.
Burton v Middlesbrough:
Look to this game for an FA Cup upset. Middlesbrough are having an awful season in the Championship and find themselves sat just outside the relegation zone despite being favourites for the league title before the season started. Burton Albion (currently 17th in League Two) will be playing on their own turf in front of their own fans and will very much believe that they can pull off a shock here. This one could be very interesting indeed. The Teesiders simply cannot afford to lose this game.
Southampton v Blackpool:
Blackpool, with their focus on Premier League survival and Southampton, with their focus on promotion from League One, will probably both make several changes to their squads. This will cast the spotlight on some of the fringe players from both squads who will be looking to stake a claim for their respective first teams. Southampton come into the game in the better form of the two sides but Blackpool are a Premiership club and will be heavy favourites. I fancy Saints to take the game to Blackpool, possibly forcing a replay. A cup run is hardly in either club's plans this year but they are always welcome for the morale boost they bring.
Stevenage v Newcastle:
A replay of one of the best FA Cup ties of the last 20 years sees Stevenage take on the club they so very nearly dumped out of the Cup back in 1997/98. After drawing 1-1 with the Toon at Stevenage, the Boro were unfortunate to lose the replay 2-1 at St. James' Park where goal-line technology actually showed that Alan Shearer's opening goal in the replay did not cross the line. While we all hope the magic of the FA Cup will produce a game similar to the one we witnessed over ten years ago, I think the Magpies will overcome Stevenage at the first time of asking here.
Tottenham v Charlton:
An all London clash awaits us at White Hart Lane this Saturday as Tottenham host Charlton. This game should be a forgone conclusion, with Tottenham playing so well this season and Charlton sitting two leagues below them. However, derby games have a way of upsetting the status quo, as do FA Cup games. I would still expect Tottenham to win this one but it might be closer than first expected.
Leicester v Man City:
Sven Goran Eriksson entertains his former club at the Walkers Stadium this weekend in what should be a relatively easy game for the away side. Eriksson enjoyed a decent spell at the Manchester club (that included two derby wins over rivals Man Utd) before being rather unjustly sacked after just one season in charge. Leicester will fancy themselves, as they are playing at home, but the might of Man City will be too much for the Swede and his Foxes.
Man Utd v Liverpool:
In what is easily the pick of all the third round ties, Manchester United will host their bitter rivals Liverpool. This could be the make or break game for Roy Hodgson as Liverpool manager. Lose and he may be out of a job. Win and things could start to turn around. To beat heavy favourites United on their own turf could provide the team with a much needed spark to kick-start their season. I would like to see Liverpool win this one but they have been so naff this season that I just can't see it. Man Utd are a tough side to face even on a bad day and should have more than enough to see off the Merseysiders.