Weekend Wanderings: The FA Cup heads into the third round, Arsenal ladies v West Ham and Sevilla take on Atletico

There’s no time to stop and catch your breath if you’re involved with football at this time of the year.

League action has dominated much of the festive and New Year period but this weekend it’s the return of the FA Cup.

More specifically it is time for the third round of the competition where the big clubs enter the mix for the first time.

With potential giant killings on the horizon it’s another perfect day for football fans to sit back and watch the action unfold.

1) Will The Mariners hold their own against the Eagles?

There’s something compelling about the FA Cup third round where teams face up with clubs several divisions above them.

In that regard Grimsby Town (currently 13th in League Two) coming up against Crystal Palace (14th in the Premier League) looks set to be an interesting encounter.

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Of course, in reality, Roy Hodgson’s Palace side are likely to heavily rotate their team with survival in the top division very much the top priority these days.

But considering the prolific nature Palace’s strikers have shown this season – that is to say none – then why can’t Michael Jolley’s Grimsby have a say in this game?

Stranger things have happened in the FA Cup and this might just be a game to keep an eye on.

2) Can Lincoln City go on another FA Cup adventure?

Lincoln City, under the management of the Cowley brothers, wrote themselves into FA Cup folklore when they became the first non-league team to get to the quarter-finals in 103 years back in 2017.

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Of course, as incredible as that run was, you had to take into account what Lincoln were actually capable of.

They had players capable of playing higher than their non-league level, had the budget and also had a management duo earning themselves plaudits from every corner of the game.

That shows because here we are – two years later – and Lincoln City are top of the pile in League Two.

Lincoln’s sights are set firmly on promotion but for the team who introduced themselves to many through this competition, it presents another opportunity to let people know what they’re all about.

But if they’re going to go on another run like in 2017, where they beat the likes of Burnley before getting knocked out by Arsenal in the quarter-finals, they will have to do it the hard way.

This Saturday’s assignment is a trip to Goodison Park to play Marco Silva’s Everton who – pound for pound – obviously possess a better team.

But in a one-off game who knows what could happen when you have Matt Rhead and John Akinde flying through the air at the Everton backline.

3) Can Garry Monk better the Hammers at the London Stadium?

West Ham’s cup form in recent season’s hasn’t been much to shout about.

Save for a run in the FA Cup during the final season at Upton Park, progress in knockout competition has usually been short-lived.

What’s more they also have a habit of falling to lower league opposition with Wigan Athletic being the side to dump the Hammers out of the FA Cup last year.

This time around it’s Birmingham City that face Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham with Garry Monk carrying out some fine work as boss of the Championship club.

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The Blues lie eighth in the table – far higher than most people predicted – and are just four points from the playoffs.

West Ham may have enjoyed a fine run of form in December but a defeat to Burnley followed by a draw against Brighton has slightly halted that flying form.

What’s more Pellegrini has a habit of rotating heavily in the cup competitions so the team the Hammers put out could be key as to whether Birmingham enjoy success or not.

4) Can Arsenal return to winning ways and their early dominance?

While the FA Cup is one of the big attractions of the weekend we also see the return of the Women’s Super League following its recent break.

Leaders Arsenal have been a cut above the rest for much of the season but in their last league game before the WSL paused for the festive period they fell 2-0 to second-placed Manchester City.

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The Gunners still have a game in hand but their first defeat of the season has left them level on points with City.

Boss Joe Montemurro will want to get things back to winning ways again with their first clash of 2019 coming up against West Ham women.

The new additions to the top flight this year are starting to look like they are clicking into place after bringing in virtually a whole new team and a new manager in Matt Beard.

But with three league wins on the bounce lifting them up to sixth, and experienced players in the form of Gilly Flaherty, Jane Ross and Claire Rafferty, things look like they’re clicking into place under the guidance of the 2013 and 2014 WSL Manager of the Year.

Arsenal have plenty of quality at their disposal but in West Ham they’re taking on a team on the up.

5) Can Sevilla or Atletico take a crucial step in the La Liga race?

Over in Spain’s top flight there remains a real title battle on the cards – Barcelona are top on 37 points, Atletico Madrid are second on 34, while Sevilla are third on 32.

Real Madrid now sit fourth on 29 points while surprise package Alaves are fifth on 28.

But this Sunday, two of the challengers go head to head as Sevilla and Atletico Madrid meet.

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With just two points between the pair people can certainly expect an even game full of quality but it’s all about keeping pace with Barcelona at the top.

Nothing will be decided here but the result of this match could crucial when it comes down to finding out who will be the winner of the league title at the end of the season.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992


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