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Five can’t miss ties in the FA Cup

Waiting begins for the FA Cup

By | 5th December 2011

It may only be the 3rd round, but the FA Cup’s draw has produced some real crackers.

Sixty-four sides still have the potential to reach Wembley on cup final day, and 32 matches will be played to see who progresses into the fourth round.

Here are five of the best ties to look out for:

Birmingham v Wolves

This Black Country derby isn’t possible in the top flight this year following City’s relegation last season, but the Blues have done well both domestically and on the continent under Chris Hughton.

They are currently 14th on 26 points, but that is just 6 points from the play-off spots.

They won the League Cup last year, and will relish the chance to get closer to more silverware against their fierce rivals.

Mick McCarthy’s side have had a stop-start season, with inconsistency plaguing their form. A result against a big rival could be the perfect impetus to kick on in the league and safeguard Premier League status.

Arsenal v Leeds

Arsene Wenger will favor his team’s chances of defeating Leeds at the Emirates, but recent years have proven the Whites to be a dangerous side in cup competitions.

Last year, Simon Grayson’s men held the Gunners to a 1-1 draw at this stage, before bowing out in the 2nd leg decider.

Given his propensity for putting out youthful sides in cup competitions, Arsenal will likely give starting berths to younger players coming through and those on the fringe of the team- a strong Leeds selection will be a tough test.

Sheffield Wednesday v West Ham

This season sees each of these clubs competing a division lower than they are accustomed to being in – Wednesday are in League 1, while West Ham are in the Championship.

But both are on course for automatic promotion, with both the Owls and the Hammers occupying 2nd place in their respective tables.

Wednesday have already beaten Morecambe and Aldershot Town to reach the third round, and Gary Madine’s 11 goals in just 16 league appearances will worry Sam Allardyce.

The West Ham manager can call on some of his lesser-used players, but the opportunity of a lucrative home tie in the next round should ensure that he picks a relatively strong selection when the East London outfit visit Hillsborough.

Doncaster v Sutton United/Notts County

Currently second from bottom in the Championship, Doncaster have struggled to establish themselves, and their failure to achieve acceptable results saw long-time boss Sean O’Driscoll relieved of his duties at the end of September.

Since then, Dean Saunders has overseen a string of high-profile loan signings in an effort to reverse their fortunes- El-Hadji Diouf, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Habib Beye, Pascal Chimbondha, and Carl Ikeme have all arrived at the Keepmoat on loan.

Sutton United won their league last year and are currently in the Conference South. Their progression this far is a success in itself.

If they can get past Notts County, whose bold plans of upwards mobility following their takeover in 2009 haven’t come to much (they barely avoided falling back into League 2 last year), non-league Sutton could have the momentum to cause more upsets against league teams.

Manchester City v Manchester United

The obvious pick of the litter, you may have heard that the two Mancunian giants have been drawn together.

City will welcome United to the Etihad Stadium with every intention of building on their massive 6-1 rout of Alex Ferguson’s side in October.

Given City’s incredible depth, any team they field will be a strong one, and Owen Hargreaves could feature against his former employers.

The Reds crashed out of the League Cup against Crystal Palace, and with City looking odds on to win that competition Ferguson will be loath to again fall to Roberto Mancini in this competition after losing in the semi-finals last year.

It goes without saying, expect a fiery and entertaining affair as usual.

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