Songstress Shania Twain once sung, ‘You can’t buy love’, but some of these third-round replays have made a new generation of fans fall in love with the romance of the FA Cup. Forget the filthy lucre the ‘minnows’ have guaranteed themselves by forcing replays, they’d like nothing more than to be in the hat for the fourth round.
Premier League champions in 2016, Leicester host Fleetwood Town in a dangerous-looking tie for the top tier team. Likewise, West Ham will be hoping to ‘Tame the Shrews’, but know Paul Hurst’s League One battlers have plenty of bite.
So, what gives? Will we see a night of upsets? Perhaps not. We’ve a selection of specials across both days of the replays.
THE ROMANCE OF THE CUP - REDUX
The Premier League teams will be rueing not putting these ties to bed at the first time of asking, but sometimes, especially in the FA Cup, that’s easier said than done. Since the inception of the oldest cup competition in world football teams have been knocking out their more illustrious opponents, and tonight could see another chapter written in that ilk. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
LEICESTER 2 V 0 FLEETWOOD TOWN
The Foxes are in their den – the King Power Stadium – and they will be looking to build on the 0-0 away at Chelsea with a resounding win tonight. They went down to ten men early doors at the Blues, but were far the better team over ninety minutes. Their desire – and dare we say ‘bite’ – seems to have returned in abundance, and with 16 wins in 18 FA Cup games against lower league opposition they’ll relish tonight’s game.
Fleetwood gave Leicester a scare in the first tie, but an old boxing analogy states that a ‘good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un.’ The Cod Army face an upstream battle, but Uwe Rossler’s side have taken to the cup like, well, like a fish to water. They might not get battered tonight, but we expect their hopes to be friend come the final whistle.
What We Sayin’?
The Vardy Derby. The England marksman sat out the first game against his former employers, but looks likely to start this one. We can see him running riot if he does, so:
- BTTS - No | 4/6
- Leicester to win to nil | EVS
- Leicester to win 2-0 | 13/10
MANSFIELD TOWN 0 V 2 CARDIFF CITY
Mansfield will be feeling rather chipper about this one. They host the Bluebirds unbeaten in their last six games, with three wins and three draws under their belt. They are battling for promotion, but the chance of a televised game against Man City would raise their profile considerably and the cash injection would also be a welcome relief to the club. However, it should be noted that they spent a considerable amount of effort in the first game and it will be interesting to see if they can replicate that tonight. With 52 places on the English football ladder separating the two sides the head says no, but the heart… well, it is the FA Cup!
Cardiff are also battling on a number of fronts, harbouring promotion to the Premier League themselves. Neil Warnock named a strong side in the first game and the likelihood is he will again. Cardiff were another team who had a poor festive period, but ended a run of four game losing streak with a 4-0 smashing of sorry Sunderland. They’ll have one eye on the game against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, but like Mansfield they’ll travel to Field Mill dreaming of taking on Man City in the next round. Will the Bluebirds be chirping at the final whistle? We’ll see!
Kane Hemming faces a late fitness test for the hosts, but is expected to be fit for this one. Loan-signing Yanic Wildschut is ineligible as he’s already played in the cup this year. Warnock doesn’t have any other injuries to contend with.
What We Sayin’?
This could be tougher than many might expect, especially given Mansfield’s good run. However, surely Cardiff will have too much in the tank? Consider this: 6 of Mansfield’s last nine games have returned under 2.5 goals, whilst Cardiff have a 43% win rate on the road… food for thought, but we’ll take:
- BTTS - No | 10/11
- Cardiff win/Under 2.5 goals | 3/1
- Cardiff to win 2-0 | 17/2
SHEFF. WEDS. 3 V 0 CARLISLE UNITED
Sheffield Wednesday arrive with just one win in five, though Jos Luhukay’s men are looking like they are starting to replicate the form that saw them contest the play-offs last year. It’s taken a while for them to get over that setback, and they’re not out of the woods yet, but they absolutely dominated the first game and should have been out of sight, in all honesty. Hillsborough isn’t Brunton Park and with their home fans roaring them on we can safely see The Owls soaring to success tonight.
Carlisle entered the last game with a clear plan of containment, which succeeded. Sure, they rode their luck at times, but it’s hard to see that combination of the woodwork, Carlisle’s ‘keeper and The Owls’ wasteful finishing coming into play again. Keith Curle’s Cumbrians have been particularly generous on the road, shipping ten goals in their last five and the Blue and White Army will do well to stem the tide of Wednesday attacks we can see besieging them tonight.
Glenn Loovens starts a two-game ban and is unavailable for this one. Tom Lees joins Keiren Westwood, Gary Hooper, Barry Bannan, Jack Hunt, Sam Hutchinson, Fernando Forestieri and Steven Fletcher on the long-term injured list. For Carlisle, midfielder Reggie Lambe faces a late fitness test, while Kelvin Etuhu, Jason Kennedy and Nicky Adams all remain sidelined.
What We Sayin’?
This looks like a forgone deal: Wednesday haven't lost an FA Cup game at Hillsborough to a lower league side since February 1992, (W12 D6), whilst Carlisle haven't won away at a team from a higher division in the FA Cup since January 1968, (D7, L17). One crumb of comfort for Carlisle could be the fact that three of the last six meetings between these two sides at Hillsborough have ended in draws. History to repeat?
- BTTS - No | 10/11
- Sheff.Weds to win both halves | 3/1
- Sheff. Weds to win 3-0 | 10/1
WEST HAM 3 V 1 SHREWSBURY
West Ham put their FA Cup no-show behind them when they tore Huddersfield apart on Saturday. The Terriers were well and truly beaten at the John Smith’s stadium, a 1-4 rout that could have been even worse. The Hammers star players Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzin were sensational and if David Moyes and Stuart Pearce can extract the same level of performance from them consistently then they could yet rewrite a few scripts this season. The Hammers are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions, but have yet to convince at home, with only two wins in their last seven at home, a run that included defeats to Brighton, Liverpool, and Newcastle. A real Jekyll and Hyde outfit this term, it’s probably safe to say that even the players don’t know how they’ll perform until the first ball is kicked!
After West Ham’s, frankly, dreadful showing at Shrewsbury last time out The Shrews will arrive at the London Stadium in buoyant mood, less worried about being tamed, more concerned with bursting The Hammers’ fabled bubbles. Another team fighting on two fronts though as they look for promotion to the Championship. They sit just three points behind Wigan in second, but will welcome the distraction of a good cup run. They were beaten by third-placed Blackburn last time out, but were unbeaten in ten before then. Their problem is scoring goals on the road, but if they can keep it tight again, maybe nick one late doors… Choose your cliché, but this could be an upset in the making!
The Hammers will have to make do without Jose Fonte, Edimilson Fernandes, Michail Antonio, and Diafra Sakho, all of whom are definitely out. Battering ram Andy Carroll faces a late fitness test, but should be sprightly enough to at least feature on the bench. Both Niall Ennis and Junior Brown also face late tests, but the Shrews don’t hold out much hope of either featuring in this one.
What We Sayin’?
To be honest, our gut is leading us on this one. West Ham have averaged just 1.2 goals per game at home and Shrewsbury have seen 60% of their last ten away days have fewer than three goals… add the two together and surely that returns a tight win, either side edging it by a single, solitary goal, no? Well, perhaps, but we’ve just got a feeling West Ham will approach this determined to get some momentum going after their win against Huddersfield. With this in mind…
- BTTS, and over 2.5 goals | 7/4
- Arnautovic 1st GS | 9/2
- West Ham 3-1 | 14/1
READING 1 V 2 STEVENAGE
Jaap Stam will know that his Royals, despite plying their trade two leagues above Stevenage, can count themselves fortunate to still be in the cup. Their subjects at the Madejski Stadium will demand a rather more focused and determined approach for a team who may have taken the opposition too lightly the first time around. However, without a win in eight, with only one goal in their last five matches, and a relegation battle to boot, this tie is another that smacks of a potential upset. The Royals only managed two shots on target at Broadhall Way and Stam’s side need to find an answer to this paucity, or face the prospect of a third round exit.
We’ve socks older than Stevenage, who were only founded in 1976, but Darren Sarll’s Boro will fancy their chances of causing real upset tonight. True, they haven’t particularly travelled well in League Two, but the Boro will take heart from their performance against the Royals, in which they out-thought, out-fought, and out-played their illustrious rivals. They’ll need to keep their emotion in check and not let the glamour of the event get to them, but if they remain a focused, calm collective there’s no reason why they can’t write a new chapter in their side’s burgeoning history.
Midfielder John Swift and defender Paul McShane picked up hamstring injuries in the draw against Hull, whilst Stam could continue with his policy of rotation in the cup. Mark McKee is a late-fitness test from starting for Boro.
What We Sayin’?
Genuinely, you’d expect Reading to step up their game at home, but we’ve a sneaky feeling about this one. The four previous games between the two have seen both Reading and Stevenage win one game each, with the last two clashes ending all square. Yes, the traders don’t get much wrong, but at 6/1 Stevenage just seem too big to us. We’ll take:
- BTTS, and over 2.5 goals | 3/2
- Barrow 1st GS | 5/1
- Reading/Stevenage | 50/1
- Stevenage to win 1-2 | 18/1
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