It’s that time again when Telegraph Fantasy Football (TFF) managers at the top of the leaderboard pray for their players not to be rested when the Premier League clubs take to the field in the FA Cup. For the managers hoping to make a surge up the leaderboard it’s an opportunity to take a punt on players with the potential to score a hat-full against lower division opposition.
Friday 4th January
Tranmere Rovers 19:45 Tottenham Hotspur
The Friday Night Fixture features Tranmere versus Tottenham. Tranmere lie in 9th place in League Two so on paper this should be an easy win for the Spurs reserves however the FA Cup is a funny old beast and Poch may have one eye on the League title race.
Saturday 5th January
AFC Bournemouth 12:30 Brighton & Hove Albion
Saturday’s early matches kick off with an all Premier League clash. It also happens to be the Kiss-Me-Quick South Coast derby featuring Bournemouth versus Brighton. So hopefully will we see two strong teams taking the Cup seriously.
Burnley 12:30 Barnsley
Next up in the early fixtures is a game featuring two teams with totally different priorities, and neither is the FA Cup. Burnley are fighting relegation in the Premier League whereas Barnsley are battling for promotion from League One.
Manchester United 12:30 Reading
To Old Trafford next where Manchester United are hosting Reading. Both teams have had new managers arrive in the last month, but the two team’s fortunes couldn’t be more different. United will be able to field a weakened team that is still full of international players whereas Reading will probably roll out their reserves as Championship survival is their priority.
West Ham United 12:30 Birmingham City
The last of the 12:30s sees West Ham facing Birmingham. You would hope that the Hammers would field a decent side against Championship team Birmingham as they have little chance of winning the title or going down so the Cup is a chance of silverware.
Chelsea 15:00 Nottingham Forest
The first of the 3 o’clocks has Nottingham Forest visiting Chelsea. Both teams are relatively close to the top of their respective leagues so might treat the FA Cup as an unwanted distraction, so you would expect Chelsea to be victorious today.
Frank Lampard’s Derby County 15:00 Southampton
Frank Lampard’s Derby County play hosts to Southampton in the next 3pm game. Again, two teams with different priorities as FLDC are sat in the Championship play-off zone whereas Southampton are dicing with Premier League relegation.
Everton 15:00 Lincoln City
Everton welcome Lincoln to Goodison. League Two Lincoln sit 4 points clear at the top of the table and will relish the chance to play against Premier League opposition. Everton will probably field a weakened side even though the Cup is their best chance of a trophy this season.
Gillingham 15:00 Cardiff City
Gillingham are 18th in League One, Cardiff are 17th in the Premier League. Neither team will be treating the FA Cup as their top priority this season so expect a second string Cardiff team to take the field at Priestfield.
Blackpool 17:30 Arsenal
The first of the 5:30 games sees the Gunners packing up their buckets and spades and heading for the Golden Mile of Blackpool. You would expect that Arsenal would be able to beat Blackpool with a team containing bench warmers and youngsters.
Bristol City 17:30 Huddersfield Town
Next, Bristol City versus Huddersfield Town. Bristol are a mid-table Championship side who would probably fancy their chances against a Huddersfield team who are in very poor form and who’s top priority is Premier League survival.
Crystal Palace 17:30 Grimsby Town
At Selhurt Park, Grimsby Town are the visitors. League Two side Grimsby will relish the chance to pit their wits against a Premier League team. Palace are close to the relegation zone but should be safe enough to be able to give the Cup the respect it deserves.
Newcastle United 17:30 Blackburn Rovers
It’ll take Rovers 2 hours and 45 minutes to travel the 150 miles from Blackburn to Newcastle. The Magpies will probably field a weakened eleven as there are too close to the relegation places for comfort. A mid-table Blackburn are likely to give this a good go today.
Sunday 6th January
Fulham 14:00 Oldham Athletic
The first of Sunday’s early fixtures has Fulham welcoming Oldham to Craven Cottage. You would hope that a heavily-rotated Fulham team would still have enough to beat a mid-table League Two side.
Manchester City 14:00 Rotherham United
Next we’re off to the Etihad to see Manchester City play Rotherham. City will definitely roll out a team of squad players for this one as they concentrate on catching Liverpool at the top of the table. Rotherham are probably more concerned with Championship survival than winning the FA Cup.
Woking 14:00 Watford
At the Laithwaite Stadium in leafy Surrey, the Cards welcome the Hornets. Woking have done fantastically well to reach this stage of the FA Cup, but you’d expect Watford to win comfortably today. I predict Success for Watford.
Newport County 16:30 Leicester City
The final game of the day has an international fixture featuring Newport County of Wales against Leicester City of England. Another mid-table League Two team has reached the 3rd Round and will be relishing the opportunity to play a Prem side. Expect a weakened Foxes team to win.
Monday 7th January
Wolverhampton Wanderers 19:45 Liverpool
And finally, the final fixture of the Round has an all Premier League clash between a plucky Wolves team tackling a resurgent Liverpool. Liverpool suffered their first League defeat of the season so might look to field a second-string squad here. If Wolves take the Cup seriously they could pull off an upset.
We’re off for a lie down… but those that want to stay up keep an eye on what’s said on fiso’s TFF Forum.