FA Cup third round weekend is without a doubt one of the highlights of the football calendar.
The famous old competition throws up myriad challenges for daily fantasy football managers, especially with Premier League sides likely to rotate their squads with yet another league fixture looming in midweek on the back of the busy festive period
Here at Fantasy Football Portal we’ve picked out five key FA Cup matches to keep an eye on.
Everton v Dagenham & Redbridge
Everton manager Roberto Martinez has made it clear his team is prioritising the league over the FA Cup this season, echoing the intentions of many top flight managers.
That might just open the door for an upset at Goodison Park, with Dagenham & Redbridge – who needed extra time to beat non-league side Whitehawk in round two – the visitors.
Jamie Cureton is a well-known name to any lower league football fan and the 40-year-old is still banging in the goals on a regular basis, with the veteran particularly looking forward to facing Everton as he made his professional debut against the Merseyside club over 20 years ago.
Everton are likely to rotate their squad, giving opportunities to fringe players such as Leon Osman and Kevin Mirallas, but fantasy players with an eye on a great story may be tempted by Cureton, who has scored six times this season for the League Two strugglers.
Doncaster Rovers v Stoke City
Stoke City looked flat in Tuesday night’s League Cup semi-final defeat at home to Liverpool and Mark Hughes is expected to freshen up his team after naming the same side four games running.
Doncaster Rovers host the Potters, with Darren Ferguson’s side having lost just once in their last eight games, so they come into the FA Cup clash in fine form.
Rovers stars to look out for include top scorer Andy Williams, who has scored nine goals this season, while Nathan Tyson is worth considering.
Joselu and Peter Crouch could get rare starts for Stoke, while Charlie Adam and Jonathan Walters may also be handed a chance to impress.
While Stoke will be expected to win, their energy levels have looked low and Hughes’ side might well be there for the taking.
Manchester United v Sheffield United
The pressure on Louis Van Gaal shows little sign of abating with the recently unemployed Jose Mourinho surely desperate to take over at Old Trafford.
Sheffield United’s visit represents a genuine banana skin for the Dutchman, whose side have found it difficult to score in recent weeks, inviting mocking derision from fans and pundits alike.
Young players including Andreas Pereira could be put in the spotlight by Van Gaal, while Billy Sharp has shown cutting precision for the Blades, scoring 11 goals so far this season.
Che Adams was sent off in Sheffield United’s second-round win over Oldham Athletic but the midfield starlet is certainly one to watch, with the teenager’s ability to score spectacular goals putting him on the radar of a host of top flight clubs.
For United, a cup game against lower league opposition might be the ideal chance for captain Wayne Rooney to find more goalscoring form after he broke his recent duck with a smartly taken winning goal against Swansea City.
Chelsea v Scunthorpe United
Guus Hiddink led Chelsea to FA Cup glory in his previous spell at Stamford Bridge and the beloved Dutchman might see the competition as his best chance to pick up silverware this season.
Chelsea’s dreadful start to the season seems to have abated and Scunthorpe United might fear a hammering despite last season’s player of the year Eden Hazard being ruled out with an injury.
Pedro could therefore come into the side and look to add to his four goals this season, while Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy will also be hoping for rare starts.
The Iron have not lost any of their last four away games and can take inspiration from Bradford City’s amazing win at Chelsea in last season’s FA Cup fourth round. Paddy Madden is Scunthorpe’s man to watch for daily fantasy football players, with the Irish playmaker having scored 11 times already this season.
Chelsea beat Scunthorpe 3-1 when the teams met in the FA Cup third round 11 years ago.
Wycombe Wanderers v Aston Villa
Fantasy football managers looking for an upset are likely to have highlighted the game at Adams Park as one to watch.
Aston Villa have not won a Premier League match since the opening weekend of the season and Remi Garde’s men look certain to be relegated.
Wanderers beat League One Millwall in round two and veteran midfielder Garry Thompson is perhaps their main goal threat, having hit the net six times so far this season.
Revenge could be motivation for the Chairboys too, as Wycombe were smashed 8-3 by Villa in the League Cup in 2005 – although midfielder Matt Bloomfield is the only player in the Wanderers squad who played in that match.