The footballing world is still coming to terms with the culmination of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which saw Lionel Messi finally secure his crowning moment on the planet’s grandest stage. His man-of-the-match performance – which saw him score twice – helped Argentina to the famous gold trophy for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona. But football fans, worry not, there is plenty more on the horizon.
The Premier League returns to our screens on Boxing Day, with a number of mouth-watering matchups such as league leaders Arsenal hosting West Ham United and champions Manchester City’s visit to Leeds United. After that, the world’s oldest cup competition is front and centre. The FA Cup’s third round takes place on the weekend of January 7th, and when there is the magic of the cup, there is always the possibility for shocks.
Online bookie Bovada currently makes Pep Guardiola’s Blues the favorites to lift the FA Cup for the first time in four years. They will face Chelsea in a heavyweight clash in the third round, and we expect them to pick a victory against the Londoners. But where in the third round is there a potential for a giant killing?
Sheffield Wednesday vs Newcastle United
Newcastle United are currently flying in the Premier League. At the halfway point, they are currently positioned in third place, four points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, and could be set for a return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in two decades. But for many years prior to their megamoney takeover, the Magpies were considered by many to be a sleeping giant.
Another sleeping giant in English football is Sheffield Wednesday. The Hillsborough club is currently languishing in the third tier and has been since their relegation from the Championship in 2021.
The Owls were once a household name. They regularly plied their trade in the Premier League and even defeated Manchester United to lift the League Cup back in 1991. But since their relegation from the top flight at the turn of the millennium, they have bounced between the second and third tiers on a regular basis.
This season, however, they have been tipped to mount a charge for promotion. Spearheaded by the brilliance of playmaker Barry Bannan, the South Yorkshire outfit currently sit third in League One. They will be cheered on by over 35,000 buoyant Yorkshireman during this third-round clash, and don’t be surprised to see that support get them over the line.
Gillingham vs Leicester City
Gillingham endured a tumultuous time during the 2021/22 season which saw them relegated to League Two for the first time in a decade. This season, they are struggling once again and currently sit rock bottom of the English football league’s basement division.
But the cup competitions have provided some welcome respite from their weekly woes. The Gills have already stunned Premier League opposition this term. They beat Brentford on penalties to reach the fourth round of the League Cup earlier in the year, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see them do the same against Leicester City.
The Foxes had been enduring an awful season however, things picked up just before the international break. Brendan Rodgers’ side has reeled off four wins in their last five games and risen from the relegation zone to 13th in the table.
But Leicester were stunned away from home by fourth-tier opposition at this stage four years ago. Back in 2019, they lost to Newport County, and we think the Gills have a great chance of replicating the Welsh club’s heroics.
Coventry City vs Wrexham
Speaking of Welsh clubs, is there any side in Wales that is currently more famous than Wrexham? Following the club’s purchase by Hollywood superstars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, the club’s stature has been sent into another stratosphere. In fact, the club even had a visit from King Charles in recent weeks which just confirms have much their stock has risen.
The Red Dragons endured a heartbreaking campaign last term. They lost out on promotion to the football league on the final day of the season. Then they lost the FA Trophy final to fellow National League side Bromley, before losing in the playoffs to Grimsby Town.
This term, they are aiming to bounce back. They are currently four points behind league leaders Notts County with a game in hand. And they have built a squad that should be capable of challenging in the football league.
While Wrexham is a club on the rise, Coventry City are currently in turmoil. The owner of their stadium, former Newcastle head honcho Mike Ashley, has told them that they need to leave the Coventry Building Society Arena. And to add to that, they just threw away a three-goal lead in their most recent Championship fixture against Swansea City.
Could Wrexham follow in the Swans’ footsteps by picking up a result in the midlands and perhaps the greatest result during the reign of Reynolds and McElhenney? We wouldn’t put it passed them.