The third round of the FA Cup is here, which means a bunch of clubs you’ve never heard of are supposed to provide your weekend entertainment. They’re the no names that are supposed to account for the Magic of the FA Cup, but a well-organized team from a lower league winning its biggest game of the season against a Premier League shadow side isn’t exactly what I could call magic.
But let’s not that reality get in the way of The Narrative. If we keep talking about those games like they’re actual things, we might convince ourselves to care by kickoff. And what better way to care than through glorified history and blind predictions.
We’re not going to go through them all. Here’s a look at the match ups we like in this weekend’s fourth round:
Blyth Spartans versus Birmingham City
There is absolutely no way in hell that Blyth Spartans does not win this match. For starters, it has the best name of any team left in the competition. Furthermore, it plays in the hilariously named Evo-Stik Premier League, and just the possibility of a club from a league sponsored by glue beating a Championship club is almost too good to be true. On top of that: Spartans? Spartans!
Prediction: Blyth SPARTANS 2 – 0 Birmingham City
Bolton Wanderers versus Wigan Athletic
Bolton is currently sitting comfortably in mid-table Championship mediocrity, while Wigan is fighting an uphill battle to avoid a second relegation in three years. On form, Bolton should see this one, but the real issue at hand here is the racist elephant in the room.
Everyone with a conscience should be rooting against Wigan because of its racist owner, and racist, sexist, homophobic manager. Err, sorry – because of its owner who has repeatedly made racist remarks in the press, and who has been fined and banned by the FA, but who is definitely not a racist. And because of its manager who is still under investigation for racist, sexist, and homophobic messages, but who I’m sure is a lovely man otherwise.
Bolton, on the other hand, was once captained by Jay-Jay Okocha, a player so delightful that they named him twice. If there is such a thing as a wise and just universe, Bolton should destroy the Lactics. But who are we kidding?
Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 1 – 2 Bigotry Athletic
Yeovil Town versus Manchester United
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United would regularly field a mixture of youngsters and fringe players in the early rounds of the FA Cup, and Louis van Gaal is likely to continue the tradition. So strap in and get ready for the wild ride of a disjointed performance and possible humiliating upset. With its current rate of injuries, the members of United’s backline on Sunday are likely to have never met each other, never mind having played together before.
Yeovil plays two divisions below the Red Devils, have won only one league home game this season, and its top scorer has three goals to his name. But then again, have you seen United’s defending this season? On current form, poor Jonny Evans is going to wilt under the roars of the several hundred strong crowd.
Prediction: Yeovil Town 4 – 4 Manchester United
Chelsea versus Watford
As we have heard on so many occasions this season, Chelsea is the best team in England by a country mile. Last weekend, we learned that “a country mile” when converted to metric units is actually zero, since Chelsea is now level with Manchester City on both points, goal difference, goals, goals allowed … everything but the actual alphabet, where the Blues still have an edge.
José Mourinho is so pleased with his preferred starting XI that he has decided to just play them all every week until he ran them all into the ground, so expect the Blues to field a weakened side. In a risky move, second string goalkeeper Petr Cech — one of the best ‘keepers of his generation, and still in his prime — may make a rare start. The same for that league-winning, Champions League final-playing member of last season’s best defense in Europe, Filipe Luís. Even worse, Mourinho may be forced to hand a run out to full internationals André Schürrle and Loïc Rémy. Oh, the horror
Watford’s first choice goalkeeper is notorious former Tottenham wage thief Heurelho Gomes. When you search “Heurelho Gomes” on YouTube, the first suggestion is “Heurelho Gomes mistakes,” which is a testament to his legacy.
Prediction: Chelsea 6 – 0 Watford
Dover Athletic versus Crystal Palace
This one is the obvious glamor tie of the round. Dover is currently tearing it up in 12th place in the Vanarama Conference (I swear it’s a real thing) and is presumably younger than some of its own players, having only formed in 1983. The Dover team nickname is “The Whites,” which demonstrates a refreshing lack of giving a shit.
Crystal Palace meanwhile, have just appointed former Newcastle manager and smuggest man alive Alan Pardew, much to our complete disinterest. The Whites will be hoping to extend their 13 match unbeaten streak, having beaten Vanarama Conference giants Welling twice in their last three matches.
I’m not sure how Dover managed to play Welling twice in five days in the same competition, but the Vanarama Conference plays by its own rules. Pardew’s men don’t stand a chance.
Prediction: Dover Athletic 1 – 0 Crystal Palace