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Previewing the 2021 FA Cup Third Round – Odds, Favorites, Possible Upsets, and More
The third round of the FA Cup is undoubtedly one of the standout occasions on the English soccer calendar.
With the Premier League big guns entering the competition alongside minnows from the lower leagues, there have been plenty of memorable matches at this stage of the tournament over the years – and this season is no different.
Marine – just the second eighth-tier team in history to reach the third round – will face EPL title-contenders Spurs next month, while National League North outfit Chorley has been drawn against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County.
There are also three top-flight clashes on the cards, with Arsenal – last season’s winner – facing Newcastle, Wolves hosting Crystal Palace, and Liverpool visiting Aston Villa.
Join me as I look ahead to the third round of the 2020/21 FA Cup. I cover the bookmakers’ odds, assess the favorites and the outsiders, as well as discuss some potential upsets.
Remember, all the third-round matches will be played over the weekend of January 8-11, 2021.
Latest 2020/21 FA Cup Winner Odds
Let’s start by checking out the latest FA Cup winner odds.
10bet is only offering prices for the Premier League and Championship teams at the moment, but if you shop around at the best online betting sites, you should be able to find the full odds list.
As you can see, Man City (4.35) is currently leading the way as the bookies’ clear favorite, with Liverpool (7.00) and Tottenham (8.00) also expected to challenge.
Chelsea (8.50) – last season’s beaten finalist – is also among the frontrunners, alongside Man Utd (9.00). However, the Gunners (10.00) aren’t favored to defend their crown.
I discuss the most likely 2020/21 FA Cup winners below.
Assessing the 2020/21 FA Cup Favorites
Let’s take a closer look at the frontrunners.
Man City Is the Team to Beat
We all know that Pep Guardiola’s men have made an unusually slow start to the season, but when it comes to domestic cup competitions, they usually thrive.
Not only did the Cityzens win the FA Cup in 2018/19, but they have also clinched five of the last seven EFL Cups, including each of the previous three.
Ultimately, Man City’s squad is deep enough to compete on all fronts. Guardiola has world-class cover in almost every position, making his side the clear favorite to go all the way this term.
With a favorable tie against Championship team Birmingham in the third round, I’m expecting Man City to go deep into the tournament.
Does Klopp Care About the FA Cup?
It’s fair to say that Jurgen Klopp has not viewed the FA Cup as an important trophy since arriving in Liverpool in 2015. Indeed, the Reds have failed to make it past the fifth round under the German’s watch.
Klopp has continuously fielded weakened starting line-ups in domestic cup competitions, focusing more on EPL and Champions League commitments. But he might not have a choice this season.
The Merseysiders have been decimated by injuries recently. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are likely to miss the remainder of the campaign through injury, while new signing Diogo Jota is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Klopp hasn’t been afraid to put his faith in the club’s youngsters, although that has come with varying degrees of success. Could this finally be the year that he takes the FA Cup seriously?
Jurgen Klopp has made Shrewsbury Town VERY angry ?— Goal (@goal) June 10, 2020
Chairman Brian Caldwell says Klopp 'ruined' their FA Cup replay by fielding a weakened Liverpool team ?
He went on to say that he's 'convinced' Liverpool broke the rules ? pic.twitter.com/CksX9jhUpG
Can Mourinho Guide Spurs to Glory?
When Jose Mourinho took over at Tottenham, many believed that he would win a trophy with the club. But I don’t think too many people could have predicted that Spurs would be leading the EPL title race this term.
Mourinho has won silverware everywhere he’s been, including an FA Cup triumph with Chelsea in 2006/07. However, with his side now firmly in the hunt for the Premier League title, he could be tempted to take his foot off the gas in other competitions.
Still, Tottenham’s squad is now big – and strong – enough to compete in more than one tournament. Gareth Bale offers top-quality back-up to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, while the midfield and defense are now both packed with depth.
Mourinho has named a strong starting XI throughout the Europa League group stage, giving us an indication that he wants his side to do well in every tournament this season.
Chelsea Looks Stronger This Time
Chelsea exceeded all expectations by reaching the FA Cup final last term. This time around, it feels like the Blues are better equipped to challenge for the famous trophy.
Frank Lampard had to deal with a transfer ban last season, forcing him to use many of the club’s homegrown youngsters. Players like Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham certainly didn’t let him down, but he now has a lot more options to choose from.
With Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, and Hakim Ziyech arriving in the summer, Chelsea’s forward line is now among the best in the country. Throw the experience of center-back Thiago Silva into the mix, and Lampard’s squad suddenly looks like one of the strongest in Europe.
After losing in the final last season, the Blues will no doubt want to go one better this term.
Man Utd is Unpredictable
Only Arsenal (14) has won more FA Cups than Man Utd (12). However, the Red Devils have only triumphed once in the last 16 years (2015/16) – losing in the 2017/18 final.
After crashing out of the Champions League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have dropped down into the Europa League. But can they cope with the demands of Thursday night soccer and still remain competitive in other competitions?
At the end of the day, Man Utd has been wildly inconsistent this term. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if they won the FA Cup. Then again, they could easily get knocked out in the third round by Watford.
Let’s see what happens!
Can the Gunners Defend Their Crown?
Arsenal has been handed a tricky third-round tie against fellow EPL side Newcastle. Judging by how the Gunners’ season is going, they might not make it any further in the tournament.
Having said that, Mikel Arteta’s men cruised through the Europa League group stage with a 100% record. Arsenal’s youngsters have proved that they can win games for the club, so Arteta could trust the likes of Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, and Folarin Balogun in the FA Cup, too.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misfiring and Arsenal languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, a cup run could be just what the team needs to build confidence and turn things around.
Other Notable Third-Round Teams
Four Non-League teams have managed to qualify for the third round this season. Let’s take a closer look at the competition’s minnows.
Eighth-Tier Marine Faces Tottenham
Premier League teams enter the FA Cup in the third round, yet eighth-tier Marine has already had to win eight games to reach this stage.
The Merseyside outfit beat League Two side Colchester United along the way, before a victory over Havant & Waterlooville set up a dream tie against current EPL leader Tottenham.
Only one eighth-tier team had previously made it to the third round of the competition, but now Neil Young’s men have a chance to etch their names into FA Cup folklore.
Of course, nobody is expecting them to beat the Spurs. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Marine – and that is exactly what makes the FA Cup so special.
Can Chorley Upset Derby?
Chorley competes in the National League North, the sixth tier of English soccer. The Lancashire club is used to playing semi-professional teams, but they will face second-tier Derby next month.
The Magpies have already beaten two League One sides to book their spot in the third round. After seeing off Wigan Athletic, Chorley beat Peterborough United in the previous round.
I’m sure the prospect of coming up against England’s all-time leading goalscorer – Wayne Rooney – will be difficult for the Chorley players to comprehend.
Stockport Up Against West Ham
Stockport County has also been handed a fairytale third-round draw. Indeed, the Hatters will welcome EPL outfit West Ham United to Edgeley Park next month.
After coming through the qualifiers, the National League side beat League One club Rochdale in the first round before overcoming Yeovil Town to reach the third round.
Stockport has spent decades in the Football League in the past, although the club has struggled in recent years. Regardless of their history, reaching the third round is a massive achievement for the Hatters.
Boreham Wood Is Back
Boreham Wood competes in the same division as Stockport, yet the club from Hertfordshire has not enjoyed the same success as the Hatters over the years.
The Wood made it to the second round of the FA Cup back in 2017/18, but now Luke Garrard’s men have the opportunity to better their previous achievements and go one better.
However, a tricky match against Millwall is on the horizon. The Lions play in the Championship, so Boreham Wood is likely to struggle to go any further in the competition.
Still, you can’t write anyone off in the FA Cup.
Potential Third-Round Upsets
Year after year, the third round of the FA Cup sees plenty of shock results. I have chosen to feature five matchups that I believe have the potential to produce an upset.
Manchester United vs. Watford
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the outcome of a Man Utd game. Watford was only relegated from the EPL last season and has made a strong start to the current Championship campaign, so we could see the Hornets sting the Red Devils.
Barnsley vs. Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere made it to the fourth round of the FA Cup last term, famously beating Watford in the third round. The League Two side will be confident of emulating their heroics against one of the Championship’s weaker teams – Barnsley.
Bristol Rovers vs. Sheffield United
Bristol Rovers may be two divisions below Sheff Utd, but given that Chris Wilder’s side has made the worst start to a Premier League season in history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blades were beaten by the Gas.
Burnley vs. MK Dons
Burnley has also struggled to get going in the EPL this term, winning just two of their opening 11 matches. League One side MK Dons could cause Sean Dyche’s men plenty of problems when the two teams clash next month.
Blackpool vs. West Bromwich Albion
Blackpool was competing in the Premier League as recently as 2010/11, although the Seasiders find themselves down in League One now. However, with EPL club West Brom struggling this term, Blackpool will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds in the third round.
The Final Word
I can’t wait for the FA Cup to resume!
The third round always produces drama, and there are plenty of lower-league teams that will be confident of giving the EPL big guns a run for their money this season.
Don’t forget, the FA Cup returns on Friday, January 8, 2021. If you want to get prepared for wagering on the competition, why not check out our soccer betting guide?