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the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

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A Weekend of Diamonds and Mountains

It’s time for the third round of the FA Cup, which means it’s time for you to miss the sensational upset that’s going to happen someplace where you aren’t looking, because tradition dictates that almost all the games have to be scheduled for exactly the same time, which means that the neutral fan has almost no chance of correctly guessing the right one to try to watch, because there are over 30 of them, and you tell me whether  Arsenal have a better chance of losing to Plymouth Argyle than Chelsea have of losing to Southend United.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to this. Sure, the third round of the FA Cup ought to be an exciting weekend-long event designed to maximize the enjoyment of fans, and sure, the FA regard it instead as a giant sacrifice laid out to prove their fealty to the god of the 3pm start time, but still, it’s nice to start the new year with some clamor.

Forest Green Rovers – Derby (Saturday, 15:00 GMT, 10am ET) : I had almost talked myself into Chelsea-Southend for the 10am ET game—Chelsea are punch-drunk, and I have good memories of Southend from when they beat Man Utd in the Carling Cup a couple of years ago—but after looking at the TV schedule I’ll probably cave and watch Forest Green Rovers play Derby. I have a huge soft spot for Forest Green for some reason, and this may be my only chance ever to see them on television. Add to that the general novelty of watching Derby enter a match as a heavy favorite, and add to that the fact that Forest Green might actually win (Derby are floundering—only out of respect for the memory of Brian Clough do I refrain from calling it Derbying—in the Championship and will be playing their first match since Paul Jewell’s resignation), and you have a pretty appealing scenario. Of course, I’ll regret this when Barnsley beat West Ham on a 70-yard injury-time goal. But you know, all part of the pageantry of soccer’s premier knockout competition.

Preston North End – Liverpool (Saturday, 17:25 GMT, 12:25pm ET) : And for the traditional 5:15 game, we have only this one to choose from. Fortunately it comes with the mild interest of seeing Steven Gerrard make his first start post-arrest, which I’m guessing will entail a certain amount of hunching and pointing and a look of transcendent self-justification if he manages to score. Preston aren’t that bad this year—they’re seventh in the Championship—so if Liverpool collectively give way to a massive wave of neurosis in the wake of their captain’s alleged DJ mug-smash it could be that…no, sorry, I’m struggling to talk myself into this one.

Southampton – Manchester United (Sunday, 16:00 GMT, 11am ET) : Southampton beat Manchester United 1-0 to win the FA Cup in 1976. It isn’t 1976. Southampton are pretty terrible, and Man Utd are sparking along like a lit fuse at the moment, meaning that if we don’t get an astonishing upset, we might at least get a breathtaking offensive display. I’ve been waiting two years for Nani to put on an exhibition.

As you know, I always enjoy hearing about the games you watch, especially on a crazy weekend like this, so if you catch a decent cup match, feel free to say so in the comments. (It’s either you or the official match report, think of it that way.) I’ll be around intermittently this weekend, but normal blog service resumes on Monday, so get ready for just an insane amount of posts about the five goals and 37 aerial somersaults I’ve just convinced myself Nani is going to score this weekend.

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A Weekend of Diamonds and Mountains

by Brian Phillips · January 2, 2009

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