London: A winner with Chelsea, Uruguay's Gus Poyet describes the FA Cup as the "greatest" in the world and this weekend his Brighton and Hove Albion side join other smaller clubs hoping to embarrass some Premier League titans. Poyet's Championship (second division) team kick off the third round of the world's oldest knockout competition against top flight Newcastle United on Saturday, a rematch of last year's fourth-round clash which Brighton won.
Minor-league club Mansfield Town will get their time in the spotlight on Sunday when they host seven-times winners Liverpool, who are in the midst of another inconsistent season. Among the all top-flight clashes are holders Chelsea's visit to Southampton and Premier League leaders Manchester United's trip to West Ham United, both on Saturday, while on Sunday Swansea City host Arsenal.
Poyet, 45, said he was itching for another go in the FA Cup, first contested in 1871-72 and which welcomes the 20 Premier League clubs in the third round. "When you are a foreigner watching English football and you see that red carpet and the managers with the big flower, any player who comes to England is thinking that if they're lucky enough, they will be able to play once in the FA Cup final," Poyet told the FA's website. "I say this coming from Uruguay, where there is no cup and from Spain where there is the Copa del Rey [King's Cup], but the FA Cup is the greatest cup in the world."
Poyet the player helped Chelsea hoist the 2000 FA Cup with the Londoners winning the trophy four times since, including last year, to take their overall tally to seven. Poyet knows Brighton have little chance of going all the way but a top-flight scalp could boost confidence as they bid to gain promotion to the Premier League. "It's going to be difficult and I'm sure the Newcastle players will want to come here and show they are better than us, because they are better than us," he added.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, whose first title in 26 years at Old Trafford was the 1990 FA Cup, will make changes for the West Ham match given their strength in depth and the allure of the competition diminishing slightly for top clubs in recent years. "We've got fresh players. Young Shinji Kagawa came on against Wigan and Tom Cleverley is fresh as he's not had a lot of football - he's shown a great appetite," Ferguson told the United website.
The FA Cup's most successful side with 11 titles but seeking a first triumph since 2004, United have been in scintillating form of late having notched 10 goals in winning their last three league games. "It is anyone's guess how you stop them. We might have to build a wall in front of our goal, I don't know," said West Ham midfielder Mark Noble.
Also on Saturday Premier League champions Manchester City, who ended a 35-year title drought with FA Cup success in 2011, host second-tier club Watford bossed by Gianfranco Zola. Premier League basement side Queens Park Rangers will get no respite when high-flying West Bromwich Albion pay them a visit.
Fears over fifth tier Mansfield's pitch will be playing on both their and Liverpool's minds ahead of Sunday's clash after dire weather wreaked havoc in England in the past few weeks. "The water is just not draining away. If you throw a ball up, it just won't bounce," manager Paul Cox told local paper Mansfield Chad. "All we can do now is hope for Sunday. We want to be able to give the best account of ourselves that we can in front of a worldwide TV audience."
The three other minor league clubs still in the competition will be licking their lips at the prospect of a headline-grabbing upset after all were handed intriguing encounters. On Saturday Macclesfield Town host second-tier leaders Cardiff City while Luton Town welcome four-times winners Wolverhampton Wanderers. Hastings United, 17th in the Ryman Premier League, visit second-tier club Middlesbrough on Saturday hoping the 131 places between the sides will not be too obvious.