This weekend sees the 2020/21 FA Cup take place with all 44 Premier League and Championship sides entering at this stage.
November’s draw created some very intriguing affairs and we’re all set for a very good weekend of cup football with 32 games set to take place within the next four days.
Marine v Tottenham Hotspur
Perhaps the most eye-catching tie is the game at Rossett Park where Marine of the eighth tier of English football, host Premier League title-hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur.
Marine, who are currently sixth in the North West division of the Northern Premier League, will be competing against top-flight opposition in the FA Cup for the first time in their history.
Tottenham are likely to field a weakened side for this game, although it will present Marine with a fantastic opportunity to showcase themselves against one of the best teams in the country.
Spurs are usually very good at this stage of the competition, having won their round three matches in 13 of the last 14 seasons, although the last time they won the competition was back in 1991.
It’s unfortunate that this game will be played without supporters and the non league side were forecasted to lose approximately £100,000 in match day revenue before the sponsorship intervention of Jamie Carragher’s JC23 Foundation.
But Marine have already made history, becoming only the second eighth tier club in history to reach the third round, following their extra time victory over Havant and Waterlooville in the previous round.
Chorley v Derby County
Victory Park will host another intriguing encounter involving a non-league side on Saturday as Championship side Derby County pay a visit to Chorley of the sixth tier of English football.
Having already beaten Peterborough and Wigan in the previous rounds, Chorley will have no fears when hosting another far superior side, who are not exactly full of confidence right now.
The Rams are in the bottom three of the Championship coming into this game but will hope for a morale-boosting win in what should on paper be a routine game.
But Chorley have already written their own history by making it this far in the competition for the first time in their history and will come into this game under no pressure at all.
The hosts have not faced a side as highly ranked as Derby since 1899/1990 but the Rams will be desperate to avoid embarrassment here.
Aston Villa v Liverpool
A draw that has caught the eye for very different reasons is the tie between Aston Villa and Liverpool who served up one of the most memorable Premier League games of reason time.
Villa, who have enjoyed a very successful start to the Premier League season, shocked the footballing world immensely when they humiliated the Reds 7-2 back in October.
Although Liverpool sit top of the table on goal difference, they come into this game off the back of a bitterly frustrating 1-0 defeat to Southampton, and will look to get back to winning ways this weekend.
Jurgen Klopp will likely field a weakened team for this one which may well give the hosts an added reason to be confident coming into it.
Aston Villa have gone on to reach the final in each of the last three seasons they’ve eliminated Liverpool in earlier rounds, but the Reds may choose to mount a serious challenge for the FA Cup this season, with their last triumph coming back in 2006.
Crawley Town v Leeds United
Another match between two sides with a huge difference in quality sees League Two sides Crawley Town welcome Premier League impressers Leeds United to the People’s Pension Stadium.
Crawley look to be mounting a promotion charge this season, currently sitting sixth in League Two, but will have all their focus on this huge game this weekend.
Leeds have really impressed since their promotion to the Premier League and have been the league’s entertainers with plenty of goals at both ends of the field.
This has the potential to be a real ‘banana skin’ for Leeds who have failed to get out of the third round in the last three seasons, but Marcelo Bielsa will be keen to express to his players that there is simply no room for complacency.
Although Crawley come into this game as strong underdogs, they will sense an opportunity to get at this Leeds side, who are the Premier League’s second leakiest defence.
Stockport County v West Ham United
The round is wrapped up on Monday with the clash between non-league side Stockport County and West Ham United, who have enjoyed a pretty good start to this Premier League season.
Stockport are currently fourth in the Conference Premier League and will play with no pressure against a side who have been on the wrong end of a fair few cup upsets in recent years.
The Hammers were beaten 4-0 by Oxford United in the League Cup last season, 4-2 by AFC Wimbledon in 2019, and 2-0 by Wigan Athletic in 2018, so will be desperate to avoid such embarrassment this time around.
Stockport have earned their place in the third round with triumphs over Rochdale and Yeovil and have the chance on Monday night to cause a monumental upset against David Moyes’ side.
The FA Cup never usually fails to disappoint and this round should be no different with some really exciting ties lined up.
Of course the absence of fans will be of huge disappointment to all, especially the lower league sides, but the usual incentives remain in place and let’s keep our fingers crossed for plenty of cup drama over the weekend.