Weekend Wanderings: FA Cup third round gets underway and WSL 1 returns

Alasdair Hooper takes a look at some of this weekend’s big talking points in football…

With managers complaining left, right and centre about the domestic winter schedule there is still no let up.

This weekend, after a relentless number of league fixtures, the FA Cup third round arrives with numerous potential giant killings on offer.

Of course we don’t have enough space to go through each and every one so we’ve picked a standout ties as well an exciting looking clash in the WSL 1.

1) Promotion certainties against relegation candidates?

Unless you have been living under a rock recently you will be fully aware that life at Wolverhampton Wanderers, under manager Nuno, is going swimmingly right now.

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The Jorge Mendes-backed outfit are sitting pretty at the top of the Championship on 61 points – 12 points clear of Derby in second.

Wolves have lost just three times in the league, have some star talent on their books and are playing some eye-catching football.

As a result they look pretty much certain to be playing Premier League football next season.

So if you are looking for a Championship club to upset a top-flight club this weekend this is probably your best bet as high-flying Wolves face relegation-threatened Swansea on Saturday.

Newly-appointed Swans boss Carlos Carvalhal has had one win and one draw at the helm since taking charge, after getting the boot at Sheffield Wednesday, but the Welsh club remain bottom of the table.

Additionally, let’s not forget that Wolves very nearly knocked Manchester City out of the Carabao Cup.

2) Can Manchester City keep up their momentum in this all-Premier League clash?

As is often the way with cup draws, the FA Cup third round has thrown up an all Premier League match-up with the mighty Manchester City facing similarly impressive Burnley on Saturday.

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Considering the way City have played this season you would be hard pushed to bet against them but surely this incredible run must come to an end at some point?

Burnley – who have performed superbly against all the odds this season to sit seventh in the league – will certainly represent a tough test for Pep Guardiola’s team.

They don’t get bullied, they fight for everything and in a cup tie anything is possible.

3) Can Bristol City enjoy another cup run?

How can we forget the December scenes, as Lee Johnson’s Bristol City grabbed a late winner against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.

In fact the only thing better than watching the Robins boss sprint down the touchline and embracing a ball boy is probably the vast collection of hilarious goal GIFS the club’s social media team have come up with this season.

Throughout the season their own performances in the Championship have been impressive – if you ignore that 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa last time out – and they stand a real chance at progressing as they come up against a Watford side that is woefully out of form.

Ever since Marco Silva flirted with the idea of swiftly moving on to Everton the wheels appear to have come off the Watford bandwagon and the side have lost four out of their last five.

We’ll find out on Saturday if Bristol City can upset another Premier League outfit this season.

4) Who can with the FA Cup battle of the northeast?

Saturday’s FA Cup fixtures also throws up a northeast derby between two Championship sides that have changed manager relatively recently – Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

Chris Coleman departed the Wales job in favour of taking over from Simon Grayson at the Stadium of Light back in November.

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The Black Cats currently sit bottom of the Championship so he may come to regret that decision in the near future as the club’s woes continue on and off the field.

Meanwhile, Boro made the surprising decision last month to dispose of the services of Garry Monk and replaced him swiftly with former West Brom and Stoke boss Tony Pulis.

It has been one win and one loss for Pulis so far but a solid derby victory, and a decent cup run, could help the team gain momentum.

5) Can Chelsea Ladies increase the gap between them and Arsenal Women?

It has been almost a month since there was some league action in WSL 1 but this Sunday we are treated to a cracking match-up between second-placed Chelsea and third-placed Arsenal.

The Blues are just two points behind leaders Manchester City and manager Emma Hayes provided The Offside Rule with a fascinating insight into her management style last month.

Chelsea’s squad is full of talent – as shown by their massive 21 goals scored in five games this season – but Arsenal also have plenty of firepower.

The third-placed Gunners are three points behind Chelsea with 10 in total but manager Joe Montemurro is still settling in after replacing Pedro Martinez Losa earlier in the season.

The Australian has had more time to instil his tactics and philosophy to his players and we look forward to seeing the results.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992

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