FA Cup: Giant-killers awaiting third round
LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - A sprinkling of nostalgia and a touch of romance will embellish the British sporting diet this weekend as 32 FA Cup third-round ties take centre stage.
The famous old competition may not be as unpredictable as it once was but the early rounds usually serve up new chapters in the Cup's rich folklore.
This year's third-round draw has thrown up four all Premier League ties, including a mouth-watering clash between Aston Villa and Manchester United.
Holders Chelsea take on second division Queen's Park Rangers and Premier League leaders Arsenal travel to Burnley. Stress levels will be high for under-fire Premier League managers Sam Allardyce and Rafael Benitez as Newcastle United and Liverpool face potential embarrassment at Stoke City and Luton Town.
Flying the flag for the hundreds of part-timers and daydreamers who began the long road to Wembley in August are Chasetown and Havant and Waterlooville, the two minor league outfits among the 64 clubs still standing from the 731 entries.
Midlands club Chasetown, who play in the eighth tier of English soccer, are in the third round for the first time and there will be feverish excitement at their Church Street ground as they host 1927 Cup winners Cardiff City.
Havant and Waterlooville also face Welsh opposition when they travel to third division leaders Swansea City.
While those two clubs will be happy with a much-needed injection of cash, the Premier League's big boys will be scenting silverware.
With Wembley again hosting the May final after a successful return last year when Chelsea beat Manchester United in extra time, the competition's prestige has been fully restored.
United, seeking an 11th FA Cup triumph after two recent disappointments in finals, will need to be at their best to overcome Aston Villa.
It is the fourth time the sides have met in the third round since 2002. United have won all three meetings, including in 2002 when they came back from 2-0 down at Villa Park to win 3-2 thanks to two late Ruud van Nistelrooy goals.
Injury-hit Chelsea should still cruise past Queen's Park Rangers and Arsene Wenger will be confident his Arsenal young guns will be too good for Burnley.
Liverpool will be wary of Luton after a scare three years ago there before winning 5-3, but for shock potential Newcastle look the most vulnerable.
The Magpies were booed off after a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City on Wednesday and a trip to second division promotion chasers Stoke City has all the makings of an uncomfortable afternoon.
Portsmouth also have a tough trip to second division Ipswich Town who have won 11 of 13 league games at Portman Road while relegation-threatened Fulham have everything to lose at home to third division Bristol Rovers.
The other all Premier League ties pitch Sunderland against Wigan Athletic, West Ham United host Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur entertain Reading.