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Weekend Boxset: FA Cup third round 2024

It’s a new year and this newsletter has a new email service on Substack. Some things may change but we still have seven great matches to take you from Friday to Sunday. It’s the Sound of Football Weekend Boxset.

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All times are UK


FA Cup third round: Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley
20.00 on ITV1, STV and ITVX
So, the big question going into this game is who out of these two really want this? While the FA Cup enjoys notoriety and prestige, the Premier League is of such importance that many clubs have few options but to deprioritise the cup in favour of the Barclays. Tottenham should by rights look at this competition and see it as winnable. But given the maiden season that Ange Postecoglou is having, could anyone blame him for looking beyond Wembley in May to the Champions League in September. In his pre match press conference, Postecoglou made all the right noises: “great competition, great history, great tradition”. But he also has to balance the effect the extra fixtures that come with a long cup run will have on his already injury-hit squad. No one will thank him if they finish the season in eighth place and get knocked out of the cup in the semi-final. Speaking of injuries, it’s likely that Dutch defender Micky van der Ven will be available after pulling a hamstring in November. For Ange’s opposite number the decision on how much to commit to the Cup is starker. It would be an exaggeration to say that Vincent Kompany’s Burnley are finding their feet in the Premier League but the second from bottom club are not an absolute certainty for relegation. Few would blame Kompany for rotating his team. He’s already acknowledged that it’s a good draw. Win and it sets up a confidence boosting cup run. Lose and there’s no shame and they can concentrate on the league. Hopefully this will allow his player some freedom to play a bit and give us a nice open game. TD


A-League: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
10.45 on TNT Sports 1
Since the Tony Popovic era, little has gone right for Perth Glory. The pandemic, owner upheaval and a rotating door of coaches has seen Glory as perennial also rans. The Western Australians don’t have a problem scoring but they do have a problem winning matches. Two wins, one clean sheet and two draws see Perth on just 8 points at the midway stage of the season. So not a great time to be welcoming Melbourne Victory managed by Tony Popovic. The Victorians have been in ominous form and are capable of grinding out results even when playing badly. Key to their title challenge is the evergreen Bruno Fornoroli. The 36-year-old has 13 goals in 10 games but is off to the Asian Cup having earned a surprise call up from Australia. No other Victory player has scored more than three goals, but given Perth’s defensive frailty, it would go down as a major shock if Glory added to their sole clean sheet here. GA

FA Cup third round: Sunderland v Newcastle United
12.45 on ITV1, STV and ITVX
Imagine the surprise when visiting Celtic fans arrived in the away end at Ibrox to see Irish tricolours hanging over the Union Flag. They gazed around in wonder as they took in the scene which also included images of Jock Stein, Kenny Dalglish and the Pope. Didn’t happen, did it? Of course it didn’t. Why would any club desecrate its spiritual home with regalia synonymous with its hated rivals? Using far more Anglo-Saxon language than would be allowed here, that’s exactly the question put to the ownership of Sunderland since Thursday’s revelations. The Black Cat’s bar, home to an area of the ground which usually caters for six-thousand season ticket holders, was deliberately decorated, and defaced, by the club ahead of the first Wear-Tyne Derby in almost eight years. The furious reaction to the eviction of fans and the subsequent images from the bar area has cast a shadow over a fixture which had generated much excitement on both sides of the Tyne. The ‘surprised’ child-owner, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, has since apologised and ordered the restoration of more traditional club iconography in time for Saturday, but the damage has already been done. On the pitch, the world’s richest club are expected to brush aside their Championship hosts with ease. This is compounded by the fact that Sunderland will be without key first-teamers including the brilliant Patrick Roberts. However, the hosts do have real talent in the form of Jack Clarke, Jobe Bellingham and Dan Neil who will all cause the (dirty) Mags problems. Away win. JB

FA Cup third round: Middlesbrough v Aston Villa
17.30 on BBC One and iPlayer
Here’s a stat for you: Villa have gone out of the FA Cup in the third round in every one of the last seven years. I know, it made me scratch my head too. In recent years, it’s this evening’s hosts who have the cup pedigree, having reached the quarter-finals in 21-22 where they went out to Chelsea. Indeed, the bang-average, west-London, mid-tablers will be on Michael Carrick’s mind going into this fixture as his charges will face them in the League Cup semi-final on Tuesday. Based on the thoughts of the one Smoggie I know who can string an intelligible sentence together, the Yorkshire outfit are in for a bit of a hiding today - at least, that’s what I think he said. The Boro squad was missing nine regulars in their New Year's Day defeat at Coventry, and the prospect of reaching a Wembley final will surely mean they play a weakened side against Villa. This will help prevent an eighth successive third round exit for Villa, although, with Emery, a serial cup winner in his own right, I don’t think that hoodoo had much chance of hanging around anyway. He’s creating something very special in the Midlands and, adding the famous old trophy to their already impressive haul of seven, would certainly mean legend status for him. JB


FA Cup third round: Shrewsbury Town v Wrexham
14.00 on S4C and BBC iPlayer
The Welsh channel is a fitting home for this classic Cup tie. Maybe it’s not a classic in the English version of the Cup - where these sides last met 50 year ago - but it could be described as such in the Welsh version. Comfortably inside neighbouring Shropshire, Shrewsbury, like many English clubs in counties bordering Wales, were often invited to take part in the Welsh Cup before the days of what is now the EFL Trophy. During the 1970s and 1980s the sides regularly met in the Welsh Cup including the finals of 1979 and 1984, both of which Shrewsbury won. Wrexham’s modern story is of course, their Hollywood-inspired reinvigoration which sees them now pushing hard for promotion to League One in their first season since returning to the EFL. Twenty years ago, Shrewsbury dropped into non-League, despite that relegation season including maybe their most famous win in the FA Cup against an Everton side that included a teenage wonderkid called Wayne Rooney. Despite sitting in mid-table, relegation is not out of the question this season in a congested bottom half of League One. The Shrews’ New Year’s Day win over bottom side Fleetwood ended a run of four straight defeats. GS

FA Cup third round: Arsenal v Liverpool
16.30 on BBC One and iPlayer
When this fixture came out of the perspex bowl it was always going to be the tie of the round (unless you come from the North East). It’s often said that league form goes out the window when the Cup comes around and Arsenal fans will hope that is a truism. Since topping the league table just before Christmas, the Gunners have struggled for goals and confidence and there seems little obvious reason behind it. Liverpool however are riding high at the top. The only concern they could have is that they should be even better. The Reds smashed the Premier League xG record for a single game in the 4-2 win over Newcastle, recording a total of 7.27. The previous record, which they shared with City, was 5.87. What will be a concern here though is the absense of Mo Salah. The Egyptian has scored or assisted more than half of Liverpool’s goals this season but has gone to join his national team to play in the Africa Cup of Nations (the opener of which we’ll preview here next weekend). Hopefully for Jurgen Klopp, a combination of FA Cup rounds and the return of the split winter-pause weekends will go a little way to soften the effects of his absense on their title bid. Despite these sides winning the Cup as recently as 2020 and 2022 respectively, neither made it past the fourth round last season. As they did at this time last year, Arsenal will wear an all-white version of their kit as part of their No More Red campaign, an inititive to combat teenage knife crime. GS

Serie A: Roma v Atalanta
19.45 on TNT Sports 1
There are many things in football we shouldn’t hold too much store in, one of those is calendar year tables. Supporters of both these sides would be unsurprised to find their clubs languishing in the middle of the table of results in 2023. They ended last season with just a point between them and they start the new year separated by the same margin. Away from their indifferent league form, this week both sides made it into the quarter final of the Coppa Italia, although Roma made heavier work of their tie and were 13 minutes from elimination against Cremonese. Another stat we shouldn’t pay too much heed to is win percentage for managers. As it stands, Mourinho’s is exactly 50% from his two and a half seasons at Roma. While most managers would be happy with that, Jose is not most managers. That figure is his lowest among all the sides he’s been in charge of - including Spurs. Of course that doesn’t stop the 60-year-old being linked with some of the biggest jobs; this week there was a lot of talk about him becoming the head coach of Brazil. That could all be just paper talk to help build-up the launch of a new Netflix series all about him, which is due to drop very soon. To ramp up interest even more, in the post-match in midweek, Jose said that the documentary would make him look like an “idiot”. One thing is for certain - it’s going to create a lot of memes. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry, Jan and Gary

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