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FA Cup: Manchester City face Chelsea in cup blockbuster

Manchester City will host last season’s FA Cup runners-up Chelsea when the competition resumes from the third round stage on the first weekend in January.

Six-time winners City haven’t taken top honours in the competition since 2019, and have been handed a testing opening assignment in one of five all-Premier League ties, which also sees Wolves face a trip to meet holders Liverpool at Anfield and Everton heading to Manchester United.

Brentford host West Ham and Southampton travel to Crystal Palace, while elsewhere league leaders Arsenal will play at Oxford United. 

Non-league Boreham Wood’s reward for disposing of Bristol Rovers is a tie with another third-tier side, Accrington Stanley.

Tough start for City and Chelsea

What: Manchester City v Chelsea

Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester

When: 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th January 2023

Odds: Man City 4/7, Draw 10/3, Chelsea 4/1

Manchester City, outright favourites to win this year’s event at 7/2, began their FA Cup campaign with a 4-1 win at fourth-division Swindon Town last season, but the third-round draw brought them no such luck this time.

Chelsea, beaten finalists in the last three seasons, also face much tougher opposition this time around having faced fifth-tier Chesterfield in January 2022, coming through with a 5-1 rout.

A strong League One side in Plymouth tested the Londoners in round four, with Chelsea needing extra time to get past Argyle before edging out Championship side Luton Town 1-0 the fifth round.

Middlesbrough were seen off with two unanswered goals in the quarter-finals before Crystal Palace were beaten by the same scoreline in the Wembley semi, though failed spot-kicks from Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount meant Liverpool took the spoils after a goalless first 120 minutes.

Pep Guardiola’s side could have been the ones to meet the West London outfit in the final, but a late fightback could not save them from going down 3-2 to the Reds in the earlier last-four encounter.

But while the draw has thrown up about as difficult a tie as either Guardiola or Graham Potter could have imagined, the Mancunians can take solace from their recent run against Chelsea, having won their last three encounters since the famous 1-0 defeat in May 2021’s Champions League final.

In fact, Chelsea have not managed a single goal against City since that triumph, and a win to nil for the home side is available at 7/4

Arsenal handed rare Oxford trip

What: Oxford Utd v Arsenal

Where: Kassam Stadium, Oxford

When: 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th January 2023

Odds: Oxford Utd 12/1, Draw 13/2, Arsenal 1/8

January’s meeting will be the first time Arsenal have faced Oxford since the same stage of the competition 20 years previously.

The 2-0 win for the Gunners at Highbury, in which Dennis Bergkamp put the home side in front after a quarter of an hour before a Scott McNiven own goal sealed Arsenal’s passage, is the only time the two sides have met since the late eighties, with the Yellows' last victory over the North London giants coming back in 1986.

There will be no Bergkamp, Kolo Toure or Robert Pires in attendance at the Kassam Stadium, but Arsenal should have plenty of star quality to call on even if their nine World Cup players are returning from a packed festive schedule.

Oxford are currently mid-table in the third division, and while the home faithful are sure to enjoy a visit from the Premier League’s top side, their team are expected to be outgunned.

A punt on over 3.5 goals in the game is priced at 11/8

No giant-killing opportunity for Boreham Wood

What: Boreham Wood v Accrington Stanley

Where: Meadow Park, Borehamwood

When: 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th January 2023

Odds: Boreham Wood 9/5, Draw 5/2, Accrington Stanley 6/5

One team who would not have minded facing either Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal in round three are the competition’s lowest-ranked remaining side, Boreham Wood. 

Sat 11th in the National League at the time of the draw, the Hertfordshire minnows can at least celebrate home advantage after knocking out Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers to reach this stage.

Having claimed the scalp of a Rovers side who had lost just once in 13 matches, the Wood will be raring to go against an Accrington Stanley side who trail the Bristolians in the third tier, hovering dangerously close to the relegation places.

The fifth-tier men set a new club record with an impressive run to the fifth round last season, seeing off their arch rivals St Albans City in round two before toppling the eventually-promoted Championship side Bournemouth at the fourth stage.

They held Everton at 0-0 going into the second half at Goodison Park, but their hopes of making the last eight were dashed by two Salomon Rondon goals.

Accrington made the fourth round in 2010, losing out 3-1 to top-flight adversaries Fulham, but manager John Coleman must strike a balance between prioritising league survival and a potentially morale-boosting cup run.

The Lancashire outfit have seven games to navigate through before they can dream of a fourth-round return, something they managed in 2017 before elimination at the hands of Middlesbrough, and the memory of Boreham Wood’s recent cup excellence might make Stanley fans reluctant to count their chickens before they have hatched.

The non-leaguers netted a pair of first-half goals against Bristol Rovers and a Boreham Wood half-time/full-time bet can be picked out at 15/4.

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