FA Cup Predictions – Top Six Premier League Sides
January 4, 2019
The FA Cup may be renowned for its ‘magic’ and underdog stories, but in the modern day, it is usually the big dog that prevails. There hasn’t been a surprise winner of the FA Cup since Wigan Athletic back in 2013, with Ben Watson still being praised as a Latics hero to this day. Instead, the trophy has been taken home by either Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea.
With the third round on the horizon, we have taken a look into the ‘Top 6’s’ chances of progressing, and the likelihood of them being eventual champions. The first fixture of the round will commence on Friday the 4th of January and you can find all the bookies who offer the latest FA Cup betting odds here.
Manchester United vs Reading
High from the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a rejuvenated Old Trafford crowd will welcome this fixture with open arms. Reading, who currently sit in the relegation zone of the Championship, with zero wins since last November, will be making the trip down to Manchester with their tails between their legs.
Under their new Norwegian leadership, the United players look refreshed and are entering the field with a sense of confidence and freedom that was unseen during Jose Mourinho’s reign. The attackers, in particular, have certainly upped their game and are now operating more dangerously in a fluid system. In contrast, the Royals are having to undergo a torrid time, with their side offering very little promise going forward.
Reading have not necessarily been suffering from hammerings, but a run of consecutive defeats has damaged the squad’s confidence. They may come up against a rotated Red Devils team, that could feature some of their youngsters, but it would be a giant upset if Solskjaer doesn’t make it a magic five in a row on Saturday.
Prediction: United 3-0 Reading
Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest
Last year’s winners, Chelsea, kick off their cup defence with a home tie against Nottingham Forest. A home fixture against a lower division side will always be welcomed by any team, but the Blues should be wary of Forest’s attacking threat. Lewis Grabban has been in emphatic form this season and we can certainly expect Aitor Karanka to field a strong XI.
Despite Maurizio Sarri’s promising start to the season, his Chelsea side have looked a little timid going forward in recent weeks, with goals being hard to come by. Eden Hazard has often been deployed in the false nine position, a role that seems to limit his effect on games. Both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata have been inconsistent performers this season, so Sarri must decide who he trusts more to deliver the goods this Saturday afternoon.
Resting players will be a common theme amongst the ‘top six’ over the weekend, but the Italian cannot afford to take this fixture too lightly. Forest will travel down to the Bridge in high spirits and they possess enough tools to pose one or two questions of Chelsea’s backline.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Forest
Blackpool vs Arsenal
Usually associated with an energetic and carnival atmosphere, Bloomfield Road has been worryingly quiet over the last few years. The Sea siders may have made it back to League One, but the club still finds itself in a bit of turmoil. Having been drawn against Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, the Blackpool supporters had a mixed response to the fixture. Will they provide us with an upset, or will the Gunners cannon through?
It will, inevitably, depend on Arsenal themselves. Unai Emery has stabilised the ship at the Emirates, but there remains an uuncertainty around his side on their away days. They haven’t won on the road since November and they’re also struggling to keep things tight at back. Despite this, Arsenal will be made heavy favourites for the fixture, as they bid to win their fourth FA Cup trophy in just six years.
These two sides last met in October, where the Gunners were eventual 2-1 winners. Terry McPhillips’ men did well to frustrate Arsenal in the fixture, but with no wins in their last four, it would be brave to back Blackpool to pull off an upset this time around.
Prediction: Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal
Manchester City vs Rotherham
Rotherham have not won a game away from the New York Stadium all season, so what better ground to travel to than the reigning Premier League champions? We hope Paul Warne will see the light side of this humour, as the Millers will have to pull off the upset of the season if they are to progress through to the next round of the competition.
The newly-promoted side have struggled in the Championship and the Rotherham fanbase have not exactly been granted with an easy cup tie. Manchester City will enter the game as the clear favourites, especially on the back of their pivotal 2-1 victory over Liverpool. Their starting XI may look a little different, but the Sky Blues hold more than enough depth in their squad to rotate and still get the job done.
There will be no pressure on the South Yorkshire club and Warne may even be tempted to make changes to his team, as there are more important stakes to prioritise this season.
Prediction: City 4-0 Rotherham
Wolves vs Liverpool
In just the second all-Premier League tie of the third round, this is arguably the most intriguing fixture of the weekend. Both sides have been living up to their expectations this season, with Jurgen Klopp taking his side on a title charge, whilst Nuno Santo’s Wolves sit comfortably in the top half of the division.
The Wanderers are the epitome of a club who should be taking the FA Cup seriously. They are in no danger of relegation and having not won the trophy since 1960, their squad has never been better equipped to break this barren spell. Their Portuguese talents have taken to the top flight well and over the last two years, they have shown how effective investment can be in football. Despite their league position though, Molineux has not been the tough place that many predicted it to be this season.
Liverpool picked up all three points there during the latter stages of December, in a victory where they dominated from start to finish. However, fans up and down the country are waiting to see how the Reds will react to their first league defeat of the season, with many predicting them to now falter. Klopp will likely field a robust-looking team, with outsiders like Naby Keita and Daniel Sturridge destined to be given a chance.
It is a tough fixture to come into after the back of such a deflating loss and I expect the Reds to fall short again. Wolves should be treating this fixture as the most significant of their season so far.
Prediction: Wolves 2-1 Liverpool
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.