FA Cup talking points: Lack of fans robs teams of third-round magic


. Marine hope to exploit Spurs’ biggest weakness

Marine manager Neil Young has been at pains to highlight the eighth-tier club’s analysis on Tottenham ahead of Sunday’s historic FA Cup third-round tie, and Liverpool have even provided footage of Spurs to assist their Merseyside neighbours. While there is little anticipation of a genuine cupset, even a single goal would be a remarkable achievement for the part-timers. If there is one Tottenham weakness Marine can exploit, it is defending set-pieces, with Spurs having already conceded ten times (or 67 per cent of all their goals against) from corners and free-kicks this season. Marine midfielder Josh Hmami is a set-piece specialist and will fancy his chances of troubling the illustrious visitors on Sunday. Dan Kilpatrick

2. Time for Lampard to shuffle the pack  

Bizarrely, Frank Lampard has been criticised for not knowing what his best team is during Chelsea’s slump. If anything, he could be accused of not deviating enough from his preferred core group at a time when form has deserted them. The FA Cup presents an ideal opportunity to do just that – and the game against Morecambe gives a chance to a few who could consider themselves unfortunate not to get more game-time of late. Callum Hudson-Odoi, in particularly, has performed admirably off the bench in recent times. Billy Gilmour will surely get a start, too. But perhaps Kai Havertz will relish the game more than most as he desperately tries to find form after an underwhelming to start to life at Stamford Bridge. James Robson

3. Sarr hoping for chance to shine at Old Trafford

Had things turned out differently last summer, Ismaila Sarr could have been playing at Old Trafford every week. Manchester United were tracking the Watford star and almost swooped for him in their search for a winger. In the end, Sarr stayed at Watford but on Saturday he will hope to get the chance to showcase his talent when the Hornets face United on third-round weekend. New Watford boss Xisco Munoz could rotate his side given the fact that promotion in the Championship is the club’s focus. But, given Watford have not played since January 2, regulars like Sarr may start. Simon Collings

4. Highly-rated Odubeko hoping for Cup chance

With Michail Antonio slowly returning to full fitness and Sebastien Haller having been sold to Ajax, there is an opportunity for someone to make their mark for West Ham. Youngster Mipo Odubeko has been quietly impressing in the youth ranks in east London and is expected to be part of the Hammers squad when they face Stockport on Monday night. The forward, signed from Manchester United in 2019, was watched by David Moyes and first-team coach Paul Nevin when he scored twice in a 3-1 win over Southend in the EFL Trophy last year and made quite the impression on the manager. Jack Rosser

5. Little to be gained for Tottenham

Sunday’s third-round tie belongs to Marine, whatever the final score, and for Spurs there is little to be gained from the afternoon barring a place in the fourth round. Jose Mourinho needs his support cast to start scoring goals and Dele Alli, Gareth Bale, Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela could all feature against the eighth-tier club. But with such a chasm between the clubs, even a hatful of goals from one of his reserve forwards may ultimately count for little when Spurs return to more competitive action. Ultimately, the best Mourinho may be able to hope for is valuable minutes in the legs of the likes of Bale and Dele, neither of whom have played since December 23. Dan Kilpatrick

6. Fulham’s fringe players ready to put themselves in the shop window

Scott Parker has acknowledged that Fulham will have to trim their squad this month. Given the influx of new arrivals last summer, their quad was so bloated that a number of players did not even make their 25-man Premier League squad list. Some – like Josh Onomah – will want a chance to impress and get back in, while the likes of Jean Michael-Seri and Stefan Johansen will want to show any potential suitors what they can do and try to aid any moves away from Craven Cottage. Saturday’s tie at QPR also offers a chance for Parker to get his squad back in shape after two games were postponed due to a Covid outbreak at the club. Jack Rosser

7. Chorley face Derby kids, not Rooney  

Spare a thought for Chorley players, who have been robbed of the chance to rub shoulders with Wayne Rooney after he and the entire Derby first-team were ruled out of Saturday’s tie following the coronavirus outbreak at the club. The outbreak increases the chances of the National League North side cusing an upset but their manager Jamie Vermiglio had hoped Rooney and the first-team squad would be there. “We want to be able to shake his hand, or fist pump or elbow bump,” said Vermiglio, whose side will now face a Derby team made up of Under-18 and Under-23 players. James Robson

8. Arteta faces big call over goalkeeper

Last season, Arsenal’s run to FA Cup glory was all about their back-up goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez. As they prepared to begin the defence of the trophy the won at Wembley in August, Mikel Arteta has a decision to make as to whether he starts his No1 Bernd Leno against Newcastle in the third round or gives understudy Alex Runarsson the nod. Runarsson has played four times in the Europa League this season but he had a nightmare in the last month’s Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester City. The Iceland international let one squirm through his fingers and was caught out for another goal, and you have to wonder if Arteta will trust him in the FA Cup now. Simon Collings

9. Boreham Wood eyeing shock

Borehamwood is perhaps best known as the home of Elstree Studios. It was there where Big Brother, the original Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones films and many more film and TV programmes were filmed. This weekend, the small town in Hertfordshire is where National League side Boreham Wood will host Championship side Millwall. Boreham Wood might fancy their chances of an upset against a Millwall side who have won just once in 13 matches and are struggling in the Championship under Gary Rowett. James Robson

10. But will no fans reduce chance of traditional upsets?

The magic of the FA Cup may prove hard to find this weekend. The Covid lockdown means one of the biggest weekends in the football calendar will feel very different this year. The lack of fans will rob some non-league clubs of a glamorous day and empty stadiums may reduce the chance of traditional upsets. But there will still be good stories. Chelsea face Morecambe, Tyson Fury’s local club. Heavyweight champion Fury has his gym in the corner of their stadium and Morecambe boss Derek Adams said: “A heavyweight in Chelsea against a lightweight in Morecambe. The club has waited years for a tie like this.” Jack Rosser

This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League.

Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri – Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.

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