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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

FA Cup third-round predictions: Wins for Man City and Chelsea, banana skins for Stoke, Watford and Swansea

Manchester United, Bournemouth, Arsenal and Newcastle to also advance to fourth round.

Liverpool fans with a banner welcoming Virgil van Dijk to the club. The Dutchman is in line to make his debut against Everton in the FA Cup third round at Anfield. Phil Noble / Reuters
Liverpool fans with a banner welcoming Virgil van Dijk to the club. The Dutchman is in line to make his debut against Everton in the FA Cup third round at Anfield. Phil Noble / Reuters

One of the highlights of the English football calendar takes place this weekend as Premier League clubs enter the FA Cup at its third-round stage.

And there are a couple of humdingers: A Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton (Friday), a Tees-Wear derby that pits two former top-flight clubs in Middlesbrough and Sunderland (Saturday) against each other and bottom-of-the-Premier-League Swansea City take on a top-of-the-Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers (Saturday).

Manchester United are also in action. Jose Mourinho, who won the FA Cup as Chelsea manager in 2007, says he will field a "strong team" against second-tier Derby County. Our European football correspondent, Andy Mitten spoke, to Eric Steele, a former goalkeeping coach on both United and Derby's books, ahead of the game about Jesse Lingard's growing influence at United having enjoyed a short spell on loan at Derby in 2015.

Here are my predictions:

FRIDAY:

Liverpool 2 Everton 0

The second Merseyside derby of the season could see two high-profile signings make their debuts.

Jurgen Klopp is considering starting Virgil van Dijk, his new £75 million (Dh373m) centre-back. Sam Allardyce hopes Cenk Tosun will become his £27m centre-forward in time to figure.

Liverpool are missing the injured playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who, judging by Klopp's defeatist tone in his pre-match news conference, seems to be edging closer to the Anfield exit door, with Barcelona poised to renew their interest. With recently crowned African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Salah also missing English pair Dominic Solanke and Daniel Sturridge will look to impress in their absence.

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Manchester United's Jesse Lingard celebrates after scoring against Everton at Goodison Park on January 1. Jan Kruger / Getty Images
Manchester United's Jesse Lingard celebrates after scoring against Everton at Goodison Park on January 1. Jan Kruger / Getty Images

Manchester United 3 Derby County 0

Sergio Romero will make a rare start in goal with David de Gea dropping to the bench.

Striker Romelu Lukaku could feature six days after being carried off on a stretcher against Southampton following a clash of heads, with midfielder Marouane Fellaini set to return having been out since November.

Should Jose Mourinho opt to give Lukaku more time to recover, Marcus Rashford is likely to get the nod. Few defenders can live with the live-wire England forward and the FA Cup could prove the perfect platform for Mourinho to play Rashford in his preferred central striking position.

Derby, second in the Championship behind runaway leaders Wolves, will be looking to claim a considerable scalp in the third round.

Their chances of posing United's defence too many problems are hindered, however, by news that forward Tom Lawrence, a former United youngster, is a concern with a hip injury. Midfielders Joe Ledley and Bradley Johnson (back injuries), Derby players who boast considerable Premier League experience, are also doubts.

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Islam Slimani, left, does not offer the pace Newcastle United needed, but he brings aerial ability and more pedigree as a finisher. Darren Staples / Reuters
Islam Slimani, left, does not offer the pace Newcastle United needed, but he brings aerial ability and more pedigree as a finisher. Darren Staples / Reuters

SATURDAY:

Fleetwood Town 2 Leicester City 2

England's most-loved competition often throws up plenty of banana skins and Leicester face a slippery one at League One Fleetwood.

After an initial upsurge in results under new manager Claude Puel, Monday's 3-0 win at home to Huddersfield Town halted a run of five games without a win under the Frenchman.

After a furious festive period, managers often spring plenty of changes for the FA Cup and Puel will be tempted to rest some front-line players in need of a rest. Riyad Mahrez has been involved in 17 goals for Leicester this season (seven goals, 10 assists) and is likely to sit htis one out while Islam Slimani, on target against Huddersfield, is likely to start in place of Jamie Vardy, whose fairy-tale rise up the English football ladder included a stint at Fleetwood.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has a shortage of attacking options against Wigan. Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has a shortage of attacking options against Wigan. Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Bournemouth 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Another Premier League v League One clash sees Eddie Howe's Bournemouth host high-flying Wigan Athletic at the Vitality Stadium.

Howe's attacking options are depleted with Joshua King out with a hamstring problem and Jermain Defoe set to miss the next two months with a fractured right ankle. Winger Ryan Fraser missed the recent 2-2 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion to compound Bournemouth's injury problems.

Wigan midfielder Nick Powell has been in good form of late but Bournemouth should have too much quality for the League One pacesetters.

Stoke fans hold up banners calling for manager Mark Hughes to leave the club. Carl Recine / Reuters
Stoke fans hold up banners calling for manager Mark Hughes to leave the club. Carl Recine / Reuters

Coventry City 1 Stoke City 0

Stoke City fans have been calling for the head of manager Mark Hughes following a festive programme that saw them lose heavily to Chelsea away and then at home to Newcastle United. The fact Hughes rested so many first-team players for the Chelsea capitulation so they would be fresh for Newcastle backfired spectacularly.

Hughes has made the case that he is the best man to get Stoke out of their predicament: in the bottom three, 47 goals conceded in 22 Premier League games. Sometimes, though it's best to part ways. I predict a cup upset at the hands of League Two's Coventry City will be Hughes' last in the Stoke dugout.

Exeter City 1 West Bromwich Albion 2

Stoke fans hoping to see Hughes replaced will hope any potential new manager will have more of the so-called "bounce" a new man can have on a team than Alan Pardew has had at West Brom.

Since replacing Tony Pulis in November Pardew's record as manager reads: eight games, four draws, four defeats, four goals scored, nine conceded. They even lost 3-1 to Stoke!

Pardew has taken a team flirting with relegation to second-bottom, and will be looking for some much-needed respite and goals in the FA Cup.

He should get them, too, despite the absences of winger Matt Phillips and defender Craig Dawson.

Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon has a shot on goal blocked by Hull City's captain Michael Dawson. Ashley Allen / Getty Images
Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon has a shot on goal blocked by Hull City's captain Michael Dawson. Ashley Allen / Getty Images

Fulham 1 Southampton 1

With the January transfer window into its first week, Fulham have already managed a small victory of sorts by keeping hold of promising left-back Ryan Sessegnon. The 17-year-old defender has been linked with several Premier League clubs - Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur chief among them.

A good display against Premier League opposition will only enhance his burgeoning reputation and Fulham's valuation of him.

Manchester City 4 Burnley 0

Given Pep Guardiola's claims that England's hectic festive programme could "kill" players, it is likely the Manchester City manager will give some fringe players a run out against Burnley.

Claudio Bravo, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Brahim Diaz and Danilo are all set to play a part as the Catalan rotates.

Given the work-rate and amount of running his players do, Burnley manager Sean Dyche is likely to follow suit as well.

Olly Lee, left, and Elliot Lee, right, of Luton Town pose with their father Rob Lee during the media access day ahead of FA Cup third-round match against Newcastle United on January 4, 2018 in Luton, England. Rob Lee enjoyed a distinguished playing career at Newcastle. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Olly Lee, left, and Elliot Lee, right, of Luton Town pose with their father Rob Lee during the media access day ahead of FA Cup third-round match against Newcastle United on January 4, 2018 in Luton, England. Rob Lee enjoyed a distinguished playing career at Newcastle. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Newcastle United 2 Luton Town 0

This one is very much a family affair. Rob Lee, who made more than 300 appearances for Newcastle during a decade on Tyneside, will be among a reported 40 relatives travelling to St James' Park to see his sons, Olly and Elliot, try to help League Two leaders Luton Town pull off a famous cup upset over top-flight opposition.

Lee, a goalscoring midfielder, played in two FA Cup finals for Newcastle, losing both. But seeing his sons claim a famous victory will go some way to softening that blow.

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Watford 1 Bristol City 2

After dumping Manchester United out of the League Cup, Championship outfit Bristol City now have their eyes on another Premier League scalp.

It seems a pretty good time to be playing Watford. After an impressive start to the campaign, the Hornets seem to have been unnerved by the courting by Everton of manager Marco Silva as a potential replacement for the sacked Ronald Koeman in November. One win in eight games has put the brakes on Watford's early season momentum. A victory for Bristol City could see it spin out of control

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Wolves 2 Swansea City 2

New Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal will have fresh memories of Saturday's opposition. A 1-0 defeat to the Championship leaders at Hillsborough on December 15 contributed to the Portuguese losing his job as Sheffield Wednesday manager on Christmas Eve.

Bottom-of-the-table Swansea stand, in real terms, just one place above Nuno Espírito Santo's Wolves in the English football pyramid. Twelve points clear of second-placed Derby, Wolves are likely to replace the South Wales club in the top flight next term.

In Ruben Veves they possess the Championship's best player. Swansea will find out first hand the Portuguese's qualities at Molineux.

Chelsea's Marcos Alonso celebrates scoring against Arsenal. Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Chelsea's Marcos Alonso celebrates scoring against Arsenal. Dylan Martinez / Reuters

Norwich City 1 Chelsea 4

Antonio Conte was denied a league-and-cup double in his first season in charge at Chelsea with defeat to Arsenal in last May's FA Cup final.

The Italian is unlikely to prioritise trying to go one better this season with a top-four finish in the league far from assured. But still expect Conte's men to have too much firepower for Norwich to deal with at Carrow Road.

West Ham United's Pedro Obiang, right, celebrates scoring against Tottenahm with Pablo Zabaleta. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
West Ham United's Pedro Obiang, right, celebrates scoring against Tottenahm with Pablo Zabaleta. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

SUNDAY:

Shrewsbury Town 0 West Ham United 2

Results have improved under David Moyes but West Ham remain only two points above the Premier League relegation zone.

They battled for a hard-earned point against Tottenham on Thursday evening, with Pedro Obiang's 30-yard pile-driver an early contender for goal of the month.

The Hammers will look to carry that momentum into the FA Cup and I see them running out comfortable winners in Shropshire.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 AFC Wimbledon 0

The last time AFC Wimbledon played at Wembley - which doubles up as FA Cup final host and home ground for Tottenham this season while White Hart Lane is redeveloped - they clinched promotion to League One with a 2-0 play-off victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Those happy memories from May 2016 are unlikely to be replicated on Sunday though. Despite being held to a 1-1 draw by West Ham on Thursday, manager Mauricio Pochettino will know on another day his players could have scored 10, such was their dominance.

Harry Kane is likely to be rested for giant Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, while the likes of Michel Vorm, Kyle Walker-Peters and Moussa Sissoko are also likely to be handed starts.

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts during the English Premier League match against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts during the English Premier League match against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

Nottingham Forest 1 Arsenal 3

Arsene Wenger is in deep water with the English football authorities for outspoken criticism of refereeing decisions in Arsenal's last two games.

You have to have sympathy with the Frenchman: two dubious penalty decisions have cost his Arsenal team and harmed their top-four aspirations. But if there is one competition Wenger can always full back on it is the FA Cup.

Arsenal's victory in last May's Wembley showpiece was the seventh time Wenger had lifted the famous trophy in his 21 years in charge.

With Manchester City and United looking to have locked up two of the four Champions League places on offer, Arsenal, who are realistically battling Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur for the two remaining places, may well target an eighth FA Cup title to add to his trophy collection.

Brighton's Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against Bournemouth. Tony O'Brien / Reuters
Brighton's Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against Bournemouth. Tony O'Brien / Reuters

MONDAY:

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Crystal Palace 1

One of the fiercest rivalries in English football. Brighton face Crystal Palace again at the Amex Stadium on Monday, having drawn 0-0 already this season in the Premier League in November.

The hosts should just edge this one with respective managers Chris Hughton and Roy Hodgson still prioritising the league.