The FA Cup takes centre stage in England this weekend as the Premier League takes a week off. Most of the top sides are still in action though, and the winners this weekend will bag a place in the quarter-finals. Leicester and Chelsea take on Sheffield United and Hull respectively on Friday night, but two matches on Saturday afternoon catch the eye from a betting perspective, as does Spurs’ fixture at lowly Rochdale on Sunday.
Brighton players have given a good account of themselves in the top-flight this season, countering predictions of a swift return to the Championship, and the Seagulls were given a very winnable tie when the draw pitched them against League Two Coventry at home in the 5th round. The Sky Blues are struggling to grab a play-off place in England’s fourth tier and although they upset Stoke 2-1 in the third round, this is a much tougher task away from home. Chris Hughton’s Brighton side have as good a defensive record as any team in the bottom half of the Premier League and have only been beaten three times at the Amex stadium all season.
Brighton are only two points clear of the drop zone, but two sides deep in the relegation mire meet in the FA Cup on Saturday as West Brom host Southampton. The two clubs met just two weeks ago in the Premier League with the Saints snatching a valuable 3-2 victory at the Hawthorns, but both can put league woes to the back of the mind on Saturday afternoon.
Spurs produced a remarkable comeback to draw 2-2 away at Juventus in the Champions League last Tuesday night, but they are back down to earth on Sunday with a trip to League One’s bottom club Rochdale. A heavy Spurs victory might find its way onto many a betting slip, but their 1-1 draw at League Two Newport in the third round could sound a note of caution. Nonetheless, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a Tottenham win but they might not have it all their own way against a side that will treat the game like a cup final.
Brighton v Coventry
First up, Brighton are the banker of the weekend at odds of -303 with BetVictor. Plenty of punters will be prepared to take the -118 on offer about a win to nil too.
Chris Hughton may give a debut to record signing Jurgen Locadia in this game after the striker recovered from a hamstring injury. The Seagull’s manager acknowledged that they have been “given a good opportunity” and confirmed that “we want to go through and go as far as we can”. The club doesn’t have a Premier League fixture until next Saturday, so there is no pressing need to rest players. Brighton are unbeaten in four games and have only lost at home this season to Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea.
Coventry shocked Stoke by beating them 2-1 in the third round but giant-killings are much more easily achieved at home rather than away. The Priority for the Sky Blues this season is promotion back to League One but after three successive defeats in League Two, they are three points adrift of the play-off positions. This match will be a positive distraction from that run of form but they might easily be outclassed by a Brighton team which is playing with confidence and will relish a quarter-final spot.
West Brom v Southampton
West Brom and Southampton shared five goals two weeks ago in the Premier League and both teams to score on Saturday is a decent price of -115 with 888Sport.
Alan Pardew has some good history in the FA Cup – not least leading West Ham to a memorable final against Liverpool in 2006 – but with his Baggies’ side seven points from safety at the foot of the Premier League table, there are few doubts over his priorities. However, with no league fixture for a full week after this match, Pardew may see it as a good opportunity to regain the winning thread. West Brom had gone four without defeat prior to a three-game losing run to Southampton, Chelsea and Manchester City, the last of which was an incredible 3-2 FA Cup win at Liverpool.
Southampton are also in the relegation zone but are only one point from safety and had gone six games without losing before the 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool last week. They are certainly the team in better form here, but neither side keeps many clean sheets and without the pressure for points, this match could be an open affair. A replay will not suit either club in the grand scheme of fixture congestion, so we can expect both to try and finish it on the day.
Rochdale v Spurs
Finally, while many will back Spurs to win convincingly, there could be a touch of value in a Tottenham win and both teams to score at +225 with 888Sport.
There is little doubt that Spurs have the personnel to inflict serious damage on a side which is languishing at the foot of the League One table, but there are question marks over what sort of line up Mauricio Pochettino will put out. Away at Newport in the third round, it was a mixture of first-team players and squad players, although that match did come immediately after the festive rush. Progress in the Champions League and a top-four finish are sure to be the priorities for Spurs, but this competition offers the best chance to win a trophy and that is not something that Pochettino will pass up lightly.
Rochdale have overperformed in this competition, beating Championship side Millwall in the last round, but this is by far their toughest test of the season. At least they can point to a run of only losing twice in eleven home matches and only failing to score in two of those games. Spurs have conceded in 8 of their last 10 away matches and there is a good chance that Rochdale will find the net, only to be undone by the class of the Premier League high-flyers at the other end.
Brighton to beat Coventry
Saturday 17th February, 15:00
West Brom v Southampton – Both teams to score
Saturday 17th February, 15:00
Spurs to beat Rochdale and both teams to score
Sunday 18th February, 16:00 GMT