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    Three F.A. Cup Fixtures to Check Out This Weekend

    As a very busy holiday period comes to a close, the third round of the English F.A. Cup kicks off on Friday with 64 teams from numerous divisions looking to advance in the competitions. The third round features the inclusion of all 24 teams from the EFL Championship (second-tier) and 20 teams from the Barclays Premier League (first-tier).

    24 winners from the second round also advanced to the third round as well. First played in 1871-72, it is the oldest football competition in the world. With one of the top competitions in the world kicking off on Friday, I take a look at three intriguing matches taking place this third round.

    West Ham United (14th in EPL) vs. Manchester City (3rd in EPL) 19:45 G.M.T. Friday
    This is one of four all match-ups that feature Premier League sides duking it out against one another. The two played their first league meeting of the campaign earlier in August, which Pep Guardiola's Citizens won 3-1 at home. They have not met in a cup competition since the 2013/14 League Cup semifinals which Manchester City won 9-0 on aggregate over two legs. For West Ham, they have been disappointing to say the least. After a surprising seventh-place finish last season in the EPL, they sit seven place off so far this year. Slaven Bilic's side are coming off back-to-back losses against Leicester and Manchester United, which halted a three-match winning streak. Michail Antonio (eight goals) has been West Ham's best player, while Dimitri Payet (two goals, six assists) needs to do more for the bunch.

    Manchester City, have fallen in the title race at the top of the table but an important win over Burnley on Monday, helped earn some crucial points after falling to Liverpool on Saturday. Sergio Aguero (11 goals) has been important to the team's scoring so far, while Kevin De Bruyne (two goals, nine assists) and Raheem Sterling (five goals, four assists) have been key in their build-up play. Both sides could change their line-ups due to the numerous amount of fixtures over the holiday break. Look for the Citizens to have too much firepower for West Ham to handle.

    Preston North End (11th in Championship) vs. Arsenal (4th in EPL) 12:30 G.M.T. Saturday
    This is one of many David vs. Goliath scenarios in the round with Preston hosting Arsenal at Deepdale. The two sides have not met since 1999 in both the F.A. Cup and Premier League play. Arsenal won both meetings that season, and have not lost to Preston since 1960. Simon Grayson's side sit 11th in the Championship table, and are unbeaten in their last two. Strikers Jordan Hugill (five goals) and Callum Robinson (five goals)  lead the team in goals, and should be expected to play on Saturday. Defenders Tom Clarke (three goals) and Alex Baptiste (three goals) lead the defense, while Chris Maxwell is the #1 keeper.

    Arsenal fought back for a 3-3 draw at Bournemouth on Tuesday, after winning back-to-back home fixtures over Boxing Day and New Years. Arsene Wenger's side are definitely the favourites in this match, especially against a lower-division side. Mesut Ozil has been out due to illness, while Olivier Giroud has been in good form netting in his last three appearances. Expect to see some changes in the Arsenal line-up, with some youngsters expected to see some playing time. Even without a full line-up, look for Arsenal to hold off the Championship-side.

    Tottenham Hotspur (5th in EPL) vs. Aston Villa (12th in Championship)
    After being relegated last season from the Premier League, Aston Villa see themselves sitting mid-table under Steve Bruce.  They started January with a defeat at Cardiff, after a three-match unbeaten streak to end 2016. Defensively, they have some top-flight experience with Tommy Elphick, Nathan Baker, and James Chester all seeing time this season. Striker Jonathan Kodjia (nine goals) has been impressive up-top since joining from Bristol City. Jack Grealish sets the tone in the midfield and brings some spice to the squad.

    Tottenham have been on a roll lately, winning four straight in the league. Despite falling into the Europa League, Mauricio Pochettino has his side clicking offensively on a consistent basis. Defensively, they are one of the best, allowing the second-fewest goals so far in the EPL (14). Harry Kane (10 goals) and Dele Alli (eight goals) lead the team offensively, while Christian Eriksen provides the build-up play. With the way Tottenham are playing, especially at home I see them winning this by two goals or more.

    These are just three games to check out this weekend when taking in the F.A. Cup Third Round. Be sure to check back on Premier League Preview for all the recap, news, and insight. Also, make sure to follow @PremPreviewMag and @lhenry019! 
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    Item Reviewed: Three F.A. Cup Fixtures to Check Out This Weekend Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Larry Henry Jr
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