A host of Premier League and Championship clubs will make their first appearance in the 2016 FA Cup on Saturday as the majority of third-round ties will be played out throughout the afternoon.
The draw hasn't been kind on a number of top Premier League clubs, with Arsenal and Manchester City both facing squads from the highest division in Sunderland and Norwich City, respectively. Meanwhile, Manchester United will host Sheffield United.
Here's a look at the list of fixtures, complete with live stream info and predictions:
|FA Cup Schedule: Saturday|
|Wycombe||Aston Villa||BT Sport app (UK), Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.)||Villa|
|Doncaster||Stoke||Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.)||Stoke|
|Eastleigh||Bolton||Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.)||Bolton|
|Everton||Dagenham & Redbridge||/||Everton|
|Nottingham Forest||QPR||/||Nottingham Forest|
|West Brom||Bristol City||/||West Brom|
|West Ham||Wolves||/||West Ham|
|Manchester Utd||Sheffield Utd||BT Sport app (UK), Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.)||Manchester Utd|
The FA Cup always serves up a handful of surprises and upsets, particularly in the early stages, and with several Premier League clubs either battling for the title or to avoid relegation, the third round offers a number of matches with major upset potential.
Arsenal host Sunderland, and while the Black Cats would perhaps prefer not to advance so they can focus on the Premier League, the Gunners are likely to field a number of backups with an eye on the title race.
Gunners midfielder Francis Coquelin believes Sunderland will provide his side with a stiff challenge, as he told the Chronicle's Steve Brown:
It’s always going to be tough against Sunderland.
They gave us a difficult game a couple of weeks ago, so we know it will be tough.
They’re going to want to beat the champions as well, so they will be really, really motivated and beating us could give them a boost in their season as well.
Everyone will be prepared for it.
Sunderland's defence has been leaky at best this season, particularly away from home, and on paper, Arsenal should cruise to a win—even without a number of key starters.
Per the Gunners' official website, manager Arsene Wenger maintains he's determined to qualify for the next round, but Arsenal haven't been in the thick of the title race like this in years―one has to assume Wenger will prioritise that competition.
That means resting the likes of Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, two key players Arsenal can't afford to lose and who need a break badly.
Norwich City can afford to take a few more risks than Sunderland after a strong run through the festive period, with the Canaries currently sitting well above the relegation zone. Manchester City have struggled somewhat in recent games, and like Arsenal, they may choose to sit a few starters.
Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva haven't looked their best the last few matches, which makes sense given their heavy workload. An FA Cup match seems like the perfect opportunity to give the duo a rest―as iconic as the competition is, the Premier League has to take priority.
Wilfried Bony didn't make the bench against Everton, and while youngster Kelechi Iheanacho certainly deserves more chances, manager Manuel Pellegrini seems determined to stick with Sergio Aguero for now in all competitions.
The Argentina international has only recently returned from injury, and while it's important for him to find his form, the risk of another injury is always there.
Per Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News, he currently doesn't look like a major asset, either:
Stuart Brennan @StuBrennanMEN
Aguero's shooting has reverted to early-season mode, when he couldn't hit a barn door. #MCFC1/6/2016, 9:21:32 PM
On paper, United have the easiest task of all Premier League giants, taking on League One's Sheffield United. The Blades recently saw a strong run of results snapped with a 3-2 loss against Peterborough United, taking the latter's advantage in the play-off race to four points.
Sheffield United would likely prefer promotion to the Championship over a deep run in the FA Cup, but there's little doubt they'll throw everything they have at the Red Devils. The hosts have been in dreadful form of late, and if ever there was a chance for an upset for the ages, it would be Saturday at Old Trafford.
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