FA Cup Preview: Tough Nut for Defending Champs

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

The FA Cup has returned for Premier League (and Championship) clubs, as 20 teams from further down the pyramid battled multiple rounds to get this far.

With over 700 teams from all across England, plus a few Welsh sides, taking part in this season’s competition, we have now reached the 3rd round, the last 64. With that said, here are the 5 most fascinating ties for this round of the old English Cup.

All times for FA Cup fixtures: CET

Leicester City vs Watford, Saturday 16:00

The Foxes enter this year’s FA Cup in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in their history, they will be the ones defending the title. In a fixture that seldom goes without some sort of last-minute thrills, Leicester’s defense of the cup will start at the King Power against a struggling Watford.

This also marks Claudio Ranieri’s second return to the East Midlands since leading his now-former employers to a first-ever Premier League title back in 2016. While fans of Leicester will be sure to welcome him warmly, progression will still be key as they hope to repeat a champions-winning run in the FA Cup.

Chelsea vs Chesterfield, Saturday 18:30

While this is a highly lopsided match on paper, Thomas Tuchel’s Blues will host the number one side of the National League in one of Saturday’s later kickoffs.

With the visitors unbeaten in 13 matches since a 3-1 reverse to Woking back in September, it is no doubt that The Spireites will put everything on the line here. Of course, being losing finalists back in May, the Londoners will hope to return to Wembley and hoist the trophy this time around.

This is a first-ever meeting between the two who are nearly 100 places apart in league football pre-match. Of course, anything less than a Chelsea victory will be nothing short of an upset for the ages.

Liverpool vs Shrewsbury, Sunday 15:00

A repeat of a tie seen just two years ago, Shrewsbury will make the return to Merseyside hoping to come out on the winning side this time around.

It was two seasons ago when the Shrews were lucky enough to host Jurgen Klopp’s men, coming from 2 goals down at the New Meadow to force a replay. Of course, the Reds still managed to progress, but it was by no means a walk in the park.

Having had their EFL Cup tie against Arsenal postponed due to a combination of COVID and injuries, it gives Liverpool more time to recover more first-team players in time for the tie.

Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal, Sunday 18:10

In another repeat tie from the last few seasons, Nottingham Forest will once again have the chance to host Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, hoping to create the same magic as four years ago.

Once a big name in football, The Tricky Trees have been Championship regulars for quite some time now, having not faced Arsenal in domestic football in a quarter century; what was once a regular fixture in English football now has become a rarity.

With Arteta back on the sideline after another bout with COVID, Arsenal will hope to continue their positive form to see them through their Championship opposition.

Manchester United vs Aston Villa, Monday 20:55

The last game to take place this round and one of three all-Premier League teams ties in this FA Cup round, the Red Devils will host Villa at Old Trafford in what could also be a cracker of a match.

Having already been successful at the Theater of Dreams this campaign, Steven Gerrard’s side will hope for a repeat performance in Manchester.

With 4 wins and 4 defeats since Gerrard’s arrival, it will be fascinating to see which Villa side turns up this turn. With off-field issues affecting the Red Devils, this could end quite badly for them if they do not sort out their issues with celerity.

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While COVID continues to ravage squads, hopefully, all 32 games will be able to take place this round. With some cracking ties this weekend combined with several underdog stories, the neutral viewer will have plenty of chances to potentially see a “cupset” for the ages.

The full fixture list with dates and kickoff times of the FA Cup can be found here.