The Magic of the FA Cup Predicted

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The FA Cup proper starts this weekend with the First Round containing 32 non-league clubs who are joined by the 48 clubs from League 1 and League 2. Didcot Town, Salford City and Whitehawk make their first ever appearance at this stage and are joined by 2013 Winners Wigan Athletic, of League 1. I will start by picking out 5 key ties from this weekend and assessing them, before making predictions on how this season’s competition will end up.

Ties to watch out for this weekend

Salford City VS Notts County, Moor Lane, Friday 6th November 2015 at 19:55, BBC 1

Northern Premier League side Salford City make their debut in the First Round with a televised home tie with League 2 Notts County. Salford have been in the news a far bit over the last couple of years after the takeover of the club from Manchester United legends Phil and Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. The Lancashire Club currently sit 4th in the 7th Tier of English football and take on a Notts County side devoid of real quality and they find themselves in 15th place in League 2. This is a real chance for Salford City to record a giant killing and reach the Second Round for the first time ever. Verdict: Salford 1-1 Notts County (Notts County win Replay)

Wealdstone VS Colchester United, Vale Stadium, Saturday 7th November 2015 at 15:00

Celtic fans left short-changed by Sky Sports once again

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Wealdstone of the Vanarama National League South take on League 1 Colchester United in front of a packed crowd at Vale Stadium. The club have been made famous by the antics of the Legendary Wealdstone Raider, but they also have some notable ex-players including Vinnie Jones, Stuart Pearce and Jermaine Beckford. Whilst a shock is always likely at this stage of the competition, unfortunately I just can’t see Wealdstone knocking out Colchester. Verdict: Wealdstone 1-3 Colchester

Maidstone United VS Yeovil Town, Gallagher Stadium, Saturday 7th November 2015 at 14:00

Vanarama National League South Maidstone United host League 2 Yeovil Town in possibly the most likely shock of the First Round. Yeovil have been in freefall since their promotion to the Championship just 3 years ago and currently find themselves in the Relegation Zone of League 2. Maidstone know they will ever get a better chance to knock out a league club and I can see them taking that chance, heaping more misery on the struggling Somerset side. Verdict: Maidstone 2-1 Yeovil

Didcot Town VS Exeter City, Loop Meadow Stadium, Sunday 8th November 2015 at 12:00, BT Sport 1

Southern League South and West side Didcot Town host League 2 side Exeter City in a big match for the lowest ranked side still in the competition. They take on an Exeter side who have had a very average season, but have recruited reasonably well after the record sale of Matt Grimes to Swansea. In this round last season the League 2 club were humbled by Warrington Town in front of the BBC cameras, and they will be looking to make sure the same fate doesn’t befall them here at Didcot in the televised BT Sports match. Didcot will try their best, but ultimately they will come up short. Verdict: Didcot 1-2 Exeter

FC United of Manchester VS Chesterfield, Broadhurst Park, Monday 9th November 2015 at 19:45, BT Sport 1

The last tie of the round is BT Sports’ televised match between Vanarama National League North FC United of Manchester and their League 1 visitors Chesterfield. The Lancastrian hosts were only formed in 2005 and have been promoted four times in their short history, including last season. They previously reached Round 2 in 2011/12 and will be looking to at least match that by knocking out Chesterfield. The man to watch out for is FC United of Manchester forward Tom Greaves, who is the club’s top scorer and he will help his side push their illustrious visitors close. Verdict United of Manchester 2-4 Chesterfield

FA Cup 2015/16 Preview

Underachievers

There are many sides that could get this accolade from any of the top 3 Leagues and the obvious ones are the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle United. Although I am going to go for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, who are in a period of transition and I can see them being knocked out in Round 3 or 4 of a competition that on paper they have a slight chance of winning.

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Overachievers

Most people would choose a non-league club for this award with the stand out candidates being Didcot Town, Maidstone United, Northwich Victoria and Salford City. The club that I am going for though is League 2 Exeter City, a side that has been very poor in the FA Cup under manager Paul Tisdale. The stand out shocks that they have been involved in include their loss at Curzon Ashton in 2008 and Warrington Town last season. The club did reach round 3 in 2004/05 before being knocked out 2-0 in the replay against Manchester United after a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Exeter have invested in their squad well this season and knocked out League 1 side Swindon Town 2-1 in the League Cup before giving Sunderland a real scare. I can see the Devonians knocking out Championship opposition on the way to the 4th Round, before being edged out by a Premiership side.

Top Scorer

This is always a near on impossible award to predict as it depends on how long smaller clubs stay in the competition and whether they hammer non-league opponents. The 4 that I can see being up near the top are Reuben Reid, Jabo Ibehre, Billy Sharp and Wilfried Bony. Plymouth Argyle’s Reuben Reid is a very key player for the League 2 table toppers and has scored a lot of goals since joining the club. Carlisle United Forward Jabo Ibehre, who has 10 league goals this season, has been a real revelation for the club and a decent cup run for the club could see him rise to the top of the leaderboard. Billy Sharp of Sheffield United has always been a goalscorer and with Sheffield United one of the best sides currently in the competition, there is no reason why he can’t score a lot of goals. The final contender is Manchester City’s Ivorian Striker Wilfried Bony. Bony could become a key player for the club with Sergio Aguero struggling for fitness and he could be given the task of scoring all the goals for the favourites, as they look to add the FA Cup to a potential Premiership triumph.

Player of the Tournament

This is another very hard thing to predict and 3 potential contenders are Alexis Sanchez, Raheem Sterling and Luke McCormick. Alexis Sanchez has been a really key player for Arsenal since joining the club last season and he will look to push his side to a 3rd successive triumph. Raheem Sterling has done OK after his big money move to Manchester City and he could be called upon to make up for the injury problems of David Silva and Aguero and guide the club to another trophy. The final contender is

Plymouth Argyle’s Goalkeeper Luke McCormick, who is arguably the best goalkeeper in League 2 and has been a big part of Argyle’s brilliant start to the season. Goalkeepers never get the coverage they deserve, but his saves could help his club go on a decent cup run and compete with the big boys of English football.

Winners

The main contenders for this competition are the usual suspects, but the sides that really stand out for me are Reigning Champions Arsenal and my pick for the trophy, Manchester City. I have chosen City because on paper they have the best squad and it’s a competition that Manuel Pellegrini has yet to win, but they will be pushed hard by Arsenal and I can only see either club being knocked out by the other. I hope that they both reach the final as it would be a great spectacle between the 2 best sides, but whatever round they meet it will make a great tie and pave the way for the winner to win the competition. The only way I can see Man City losing is if they get an away tie at the Emirates, but on neutral territory and at the Etihad Man City will have the beating of Arsenal.

Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane

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