Crystal Palace has hired Sam Allardyce to keep it in the English Premier League and, with the Eagles having reached last term’s English FA Cup final, one wonders if they will be all that bothered about this season’s 136th edition.
Allardyce says that he is a traditionalist who loves the English FA Cup but only once in the last seven terms has he managed a team that has made it past the third round – two seasons ago when West Ham progressed to the fifth round, although the Irons did require an 113th-minute equaliser and penalties to knock out their third round opponent, Everton.
Crystal Palace is odds on across the board to qualify for the English FA Cup fourth round at the first time of asking but one could not recommend taking short prices about the Eagles winning their third round tie at Bolton on Saturday.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Crystal Palace is in the midst of an English Premier League relegation scrap, which explains why Allardyce is in residence at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace’s next seven English Premier League games – West Ham (away), Everton (home), Bournemouth (away), Sunderland (home), Stoke (away), Middlesbrough (home) and West Bromwich (away) – have the potential to make or break its top-flight campaign because none of them is against a genuine heavyweight. Surely Allardyce is going to prioritise Crystal Palace’s upcoming English Premier League matches over a potential English FA Cup run. That is exactly what Allardyce did last season when he selected a second-string Sunderland to face Arsenal in the English FA Cup third round, a road game that the Black Cats lost 1-3.
Then there is the Bolton factor to consider. Allardyce was Bolton boss from October 1999 to April 2007 and there is no doubt that Wanderers hold a special place in Big Sam’s big heart. One cannot imagine that Allardyce would be anything other than happy if Bolton was the beneficiary of Crystal Palace taking it easy in the English FA Cup third round. Bolton, which is placed second on the English League One ladder, has won each of its last 10 home matches across all competitions, and its current manager, Phil Parkinson, knows a thing or two about cup runs after leading then fourth-tier Bradford to the English Capital One Cup final in 2013.
Marathonbet is offering odds of +355 about Bolton upsetting – if that is the appropriate word – Crystal Palace in the English FA Cup third round. Allardyce knows that his job is safe in the short term and that Crystal Palace officials are not going to blow their tops if the Eagles lose at Bolton provided that it is part of their English Premier League survival strategy. Bolton will not kick off at such odds.
Another English Premier League team that may be vulnerable to an English FA Cup third round shock is Middlesbrough, which will entertain Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka is yet to win an English FA Cup tie and he rested several Boro players in last term’s third round when his side lost 1-2 at home to Burnley.
Most English Premier League fans thought that Middlesbrough would be the best of this season’s three new teams but Boro are in relegation trouble, primarily because they are the division’s joint lowest scorers. Middlesbrough should not be odds on to get the better of a Sheffield Wednesday side that is unbeaten in five games and, as a general rule, has lost only to the English Championship promotion candidates.
Sheffield Wednesday’s most recent trip to England’s north east resulted in a surprise 1-0 win at English Championship title favourite Newcastle so the Owls have proven that they can perform on the big stage. Marathonbet is open for business with odds of +375 about Sheffield Wednesday.
Bolton to beat Crystal Palace
Saturday 7th January, 15:00 GMT
Sheffield Wednesday to beat Middlesbrough
Sunday 8th January, 15:00 GMT