Football: Arsenal draw Sunderland to begin FA Cup title defence next month

Aaron Ramsey celebrating after scoring the third goal for Arsenal.
Aaron Ramsey celebrating after scoring the third goal for Arsenal.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Arsenal will begin their quest to become the first team in modern times to win the FA Cup three years running with a home tie against fellow Premier League side Sunderland next month.

Monday's draw in Cardiff for the third round of the most historic domestic knockout competition in world football produced an unusually high total of five all-top flight ties.

Arsenal will start their Cup defence against the side they beat 3-1 in the league on Saturday, as they seek to become only the third team in the history of the venerable competition to win the trophy for three years in succession.

The last team to achieve the feat were Blackburn Rovers, who won the Cup in 1884, 1885 and 1886, eight years after Wanderers had performed a similar treble.

The third-round draw, which traditionally sees the introduction of the glamour clubs into the event, also paired two current Premier League high flyers, fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur against current leaders Leicester City.

The other top-tier ties are Watford versus Newcastle United, Southampton against Crystal Palace and Norwich at home to Manchester City.

Juergen Klopp's Liverpool, smarting from a 2-0 league defeat by Newcastle on Sunday, will visit fourth-tier Exeter City.

The draw, as usual, offered the whiff of romance with four non-league sides still in the competition given the chance to tackle the big boys.

Of those, only National League team Eastleigh are definitely through to the third round and they have been rewarded with a home tie against Bolton Wanderers, currently struggling at the foot of the second-tier Championship.

Seventh-tier club Salford City, the non-league side co-owned by five ex-Manchester United internationals, have captured the all headlines in the competition so far and have the prospect of a home tie if they win their second-round replay at Hartlepool.

The Northern Premier League Premier Division side, in whom brothers Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt hold a 50 per cent stake, will play Derby County, currently third in the Championship, if they get through.

Semi-professional Whitehawk, a National League South side, have the incentive of a lucrative trip to Goodison Park to take on Premier League Everton but have to beat Dagenham & Redbridge, of League Two, in their second-round replay.