It's the third round of the FA Cup, which means a packed Saturday schedule, with 3pm kick-offs, the big boys facing potential banana skins, the vide printer going berserk and a result service that took an eternity to complete... well, historically, yes. These days, with TV money demanding wall-to-wall coverage we have Friday/Saturday/Sunday AND Monday 3rd round games! However, the romance is still there, the possibility of an upset resounds, and with a Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton the highlight of tonight's fixtures we're still lovin' it!
Liverpool v Everton. Manchester United v Derby. We look at both games in our FA Cup - 3rd Round Preview, below:
THE ROMANCE OF THE CUP
LIVERPOOL 2 V 1 EVERTON
Down the years this city rivalry has thrown up some classic encounters, especially in the FA Cup. People may lament the passing of time, nurturing a nostalgic return to the days when the FA Cup remained a mainstay of the sporting calendar, but when the fixtures were drawn a while back this tie stood out as a real mouth-watering clash. Both will want to claim bragging rights, and we don’t expect any quarter to be asked for, nor given, as these two giants of the English game go head-to-head once again!
Liverpool arrive on the back of a 16-game unbeaten run, a late winner at Burnley last time out confirming their relentless drive for success. Much of these is derived from their attacking play: when they’re in the mood, especially at home, they are virtually unplayable and their questionable defence can draw-up deckchairs, such is the opponent’s reliance on somehow stemming what must seem a never-ending wave of red attacks. They have netted 25 goals in their last eight home games alone, though they will be without African Player of the Year Mo Salah and runner-up Sadio Mane for this game. Currently on their joint-longest unbeaten run against the Toffees, Klopp’s Redmen will be in no mood to surrender that record tonight.
When big Sam Allardyce arrived, Everton were in total disarray, and looked in danger of going down without a fight. However, he’s steadied the ship somewhat and the fire and brimstone of a local derby could be just the sort of game to galvanize his troops once again. Beaten 2-0 at home to Man United last time out showed they have a way to go before they’re challenging for a European spot, but they’re getting back on track with only two losses in their last ten games proof of that. They seem to enjoy playing away from home as well, only scoring in one of their last seven away games. If they do rise to the occasion in the face of adversity, then tonight could be the night that Everton force Liverpool to sing the Blues.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane join Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno, Marko Grujic, Nathaniel Clyne, and Adam Bogdan in Liverpool’s treatment room. Given Liverpool’s porous defence, expect the world’s costliest defender, Virgil van Dijk to ‘enjoy’ a baptism of fire tonight. Everton remain without Leighton Baines, Maarten Stekelenburg, Ramiro Funes Mori, and Seamus Coleman, whilst former England starlet Ross Barkley is in London, undoing a fitness check a Chelsea ahead of a £15m move south.
What We Sayin’?
At first glance you'd take Liverpool to win this one, especially at home. However, we've a feeling Everton will enjoy the break from Premier League action and the chance of getting one over their neighbours. That Liverpool wll rotate their squad for the game is without question, injuries alone force Klopp's hand here. Everton could field something resembling their first-choice team...
Given the above, BTTS certainly appeals at EVS. BTTS and over 2.5 goals is 13/10, whilst BTTS and Liverpool win returns 11/5. Finally, we'll take Liverpool to win 2-1, which pays 15/2.*
MANCHESTER UNITED V DERBY
Derby will have watched Bristol City’s game with United with interest, especially given the way the Robins went at United from the off and took the game to their illustrious opponents. They’re not nicknamed ‘The Rams’ for nothing, but can they batter United into submission?
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Jose and United, and it seems the world and his wife, or at least some of the sporting world’s more scurrilous scribes are waiting for the mighty to fall. A degree of schadenfreude was felt when Bristol City knocked them out of the League Cup and Jose will not want a repeat tonight. The Red Devils ended a run of four games without defeat with Monday’s 2-0 defeat of Everton, which saw great goals from Lingard and Martial. It’s hard to predict United’s starting eleven for this one, especially when their given their current injury woes but we’d expect both to feature tonight, especially as the FA Cup remains a realistic tilt at silverware for Jose and his team.
The gulf in class between the Championship and the Premier League isn’t as distinct as many believe. Teams such as Burnley and Bournemouth have proven this, and united must beware a team currently sat in second place in England’s second tier. They arrive on the back of an entertaining 1-1 draw with Sheffield United on Monday, striker Matej Vydra equalising from the spot and extending their unbeaten run to seven games. They are certainly up for this one and are poised to pounce on any perceived United weaknesses or uncertainties. As manager Gary Rowett said: “We’re going there to do a job!”
Ashley Young, suspended retrospectively by the FA for violent conduct sits this one out, as does Lukaku, who picked up a head injury. Zlatan has a knee injury, Valencia a hamstring problem, Eric Bailly a back issue, Carrick’s a long-term absentee whilst Maouane Fellaini needs to visit a barbers, though he has been passed fit for this one and should return to bolster the midfield.
What We Sayin’?
We can't see United slipping-up twice, despite the best intentions of Derby. They'll need to start strongly to calm any nerves, but in Rashford they have a pacy, intelligent and mature player who can mix it with the best of them. The youngster is 3/1 to open the scoring and we like the look of that. Derby haven't been free-scoring of late, and we can see United keeping them at bay. United to win t nil is 10/11. Finally, our score prediction, a 2-0 home win returns 21/4.*
Whomever you decide to back, don't forget to follow us on Twitter (@stanjames) as we mark your card with all the latest updates: it's just like being pitchside yourself!
Please do bet responsibly, and the best of luck!
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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