Back in the day the FA Cup was considered the glamour trophy. Okay, so to win the league title was always considered the more difficult of the two challenges, and very much the ‘bread and butter’ of the football season, but the FA Cup – with its giant killing and dreams of Wembley – was the one that really whetted the appetite.
Third round day – also looking back – was considered by many to be “best day in the footballing calendar”; the day when the country’s elite could find themselves going toe-to-toe with teams six or seven tiers below them in the pyramid, on a pitch far removed from the manicured lawns to which they had been accustomed.
Yet, while some of that still stands, the FA, the TV companies and the big clubs have done their best to dilute the competition. This year’s third round takes four consecutive days to complete, with just ten of 32 ties kicking off at the traditional 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
Throw into the mix the fact that most Premier League and Championship sides will use the third round to give squad players the opportunity of a full 90 minutes, and ‘the best day’/four-days in the footballing calendar now has a rather different look and feel. That hasn’t however had a negative impact on the big clubs winning the trophy, and in the 21st century only two teams outside the so-called top six have won it – Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan in 2013.
Typically, the same big six head the bookies list of favourites for this year’s completion, with Man City topping it at 4/1, just ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea at 6/1. In terms of the third round however, we are looking for some rather better value from our three selected matches:
TOP TIP! – Derby to win 2-0 @ +1300 / Marriott as anytime goalscorer @ +190
Get the best odds for Derby v Southampton and our other featured games with our selected bookmakers below.
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Frank Lampard’s Derby County – as they have been unofficially renamed by the media – have been hovering around the playoff places of the Championship since August, and also enjoyed a fine run in the Carabao Cup. Ironically, it ended at Frank’s old stomping ground of Stamford Bridge, but not before, en route, his side had beaten Jose Mourinho’s Manchester Utd at Old Trafford.
All of which adds up to Derby’s new, exciting brand of football being well suited to cup competitions, and we happen to think Southampton could well be the next Premier League side to succumb to ‘super Frank’s’ Rams.
The Saints though have improved since Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced Mark Hughes in their managerial hotseat, and in midweek picked up a highly impressive 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against Maurizio Sarri’s faltering Chelsea. They will though see the FA Cup as something of a distraction to their Premier League survival hopes, and it’s almost a given that Hasenhuttl will rest some of his key players for this tie.
Lampard may of course do the same but his squad, bolstered by some young, talented loanees from Premier League clubs, like Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, is full of pace, verve and energy – qualities ideally suited to third round day.
The bookies appear to agree and have found it hard to split the two, but we’re particularly drawn to the 2-0 to Derby +1300 with BetVictor, with second string Saints side struggling to make an impact. We’re also tempted by Derby’s in-form Jack Marriott as anytime goalscorer at +190 with 888sport.
TOP TIP! – Portsmouth to win 2-1 @ +1400 / Rhodes as anytime goalscorer @ +140
When the draw was made, this was labelled at leaders of the Championship versus leaders of League One, but while Portsmouth have maintained their healthy lead at the top of League One, the Canaries of Norwich have, after an unproductive Festive programme, slid to second in the table.
Daniel Farke – City’s head coach – has though done an incredible job to keep his squad, constructed on a shoestring, in the promotion hunt throughout the autumn and there is little evidence of their challenge falling away. His squad is however threadbare after a run of injuries to key players and it’s inevitable that the German will play an XI that will include at least 7/8 changes from his starting line-up at Brentford on New Year’s Day.
Portsmouth, who themselves have promotion at the top of their priority list, will also be likely to make changes to keep their squad fresh, but manager Kenny Jackett is a wily operator who will see the psychological boost a win at Norwich would give his men. And given City’s injury struggles, Pompey – who will be roared in by 3000 visiting fans – will fancy this one.
The bookies have gone with Norwich, based on their higher ranking in the pyramid, but we think they’ve missed a trick and are ignoring the Canaries’ injury crisis and the changes Farke will make. We think the value is with Pompey, in particular the +1400 on offer with Bet365 for a 2-1 away win. Also worth a second glance though is City’s Jordan Rhodes as anytime goalscorer at +140 with 888sport.
TOP TIP! – Leicester to win 3-1 @ +950 / Newport to lose but lead at H/T @ +2500
This tie is one of the old school variety that captures the magic of the Cup, with three divisions separating the two sides. Leicester – Premier League Champions in 2015-16 – against the Welsh minnows, who went out of business as a Conference side back in 1989.
The Exiles’ form of late has been adversely affected by their FA Cup run and, after a good start to the season, have dropped down to 12th in League Two after having taken just a single point from their last five games. Goals have been hard to come by over the Festive period but one thing in their favour is a good record at their Rodney Parade home.
Leicester meanwhile have won three of their last four Premier League games – a run that saw them beat both Manchester City and Chelsea – and have climbed to 7th in the league.
On paper there is only one winner here, but Newport will cling to the fact that cup upsets are the lifeblood of the competition and that David does very occasionally overcome Goliath, and we can see them getting on the scoresheet – maybe even grabbing themselves a shock lead.
Ultimately though we see the Foxes’ Premier League quality prevailing and so are going for a 3-1 +950 with BetVictor and also a Leicester win with Newport leading at half-time at +2500 with BetVictor.
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