The first weekend in January is traditionally reserved for the third round of the FA Cup in England, and it’s a weekend which is littered with historic moments. There’s little better than watching the underdog pull of a famous giant-killing, and for those players representing clubs at a lower level, it’s a chance to write their names into footballing folklore.
That’s exactly what Jack Duggan of non-league Stourbridge did when he scored an 86th minute winner against Northampton to book his team’s place in the third round for the first time in their 140-year history. In true ‘part-time hero’ fashion, he pointed out to interviewers after the game that he couldn’t miss a University lecture at 9am the following morning – “I’ve got a dissertation to do. I want to be a primary school teacher.” he told the BBC. Outstanding stuff! Make sure you keep an eye out for the Stourbridge result when they take on League Two Wycombe on Saturday afternoon.
That kind of story is exactly the type that Premier League clubs will be dreading, but this is the FA Cup and there are bound to be one or two shocks along the way. SBO’s aim here is to avoid the potential banana skins, and look for good value bets among the many fixtures. The top three by our rating, include Everton at home to a Leicester side that may not be fully focused on this competition; A Bournemouth side flying high in the Premier League on the road at Millwall; and a Barnsley team taking a trip to the seaside to play Blackpool.
Everton v Leicester
Everton are very reasonably priced to beat Leicester at 91/1001.91-1100.91-1.100.91 with William Hill considering the circumstances surrounding the match.
The Foxes are without a domestic win on the road this season, and last season’s incredible Champions find themselves in 15th place in the Premier League – just six points above the relegation zone. An FA Cup run may seem like a welcome distraction from league affairs, but Claudio Ranieri has bigger fish to fry. A Champions League last 16 tie against Sevilla awaits, and the Italian manager might show the same pragmatism as he did at this stage last season. With Leicester in an unbelievable league position, Ranieri fielded a weakened side against Spurs in last year’s third round. His side performed above themselves to earn a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, but a similarly weakened side was beaten 2-0 in the replay at the King Power. Jamie Vardy is eligible to return after a ban, but it would come as no surprise to see a marginal Leicester first eleven.
Everton on the other hand, are likely to throw everything at this game in attempt to embark on a cup run. The Toffees are 7th in the table at the moment and on course to challenge for a Europa League spot. Unlike their visitors, they have no European distractions, and a strong run in the cup alongside a top half league position will be seen as a decent season for Ronald Koeman. The Dutch manager experienced quite a sticky patch during the Autumn when he saw his side win just once in eleven, but the 2-1 Goodison victory over Arsenal proved to be a catalyst for improvement. They were unlucky to lose the Merseyside derby at the death, and followed that with a 2-0 win away at Leicester, a 2-2 at Hull, and a 3-0 home win over Southampton.
Everton have only lost twice in ten at Goodison, and are taken to want this more than a poor travelling Leicester.
Millwall v Bournemouth
Eddie Howe’s Cherries enhance their reputation with every passing week, and are worth backing at 91/1001.91-1100.91-1.100.91 with Betway to triumph at Millwall.
Bournemouth reside in 9th place in the Premier League and look to be in no danger of getting involved in the scrap at the bottom. they can consider themselves a shade unlucky to have lost that three-goal lead at Arsenal in the week, but still came out of the game with an element of pride. The Cherries are in a position whereby they can have a crack at the FA Cup, and League One Millwall should present no great fears.
The Lions are having a decent enough season in England’s third tier, also occupying 9th position and just two points outside the play offs. However, they have lost two of the last five at the Den – to Wycombe and Shrewsbury – and the Londoners don’t have the quality of Bournemouth. These teams last met on this ground in 2014 when it was a Championship fixture, and the Cherries ran out 2-0 winners on that occasion. Fortunes have changed in very different directions for the two clubs since, and if Bournemouth are fit and firing for this they can navigate their way to the fourth round.
Blackpool v Barnsley
Finally, Championship Barnsley can get the better of League Two Blackpool at 59/502.18+1181.181.18-0.85 with Marathonbet.
The Seasiders were gracing the Premier League not so long ago, but it’s been a dramatic fall from grace. Blackpool are mid-table in the fourth tier of English football, and are hosting a side that sits 8th in the Championship. These two met as recently as 2015 when both were League One clubs, Barnsley winning the home fixture 4-2 and drawing 1-1 on this ground. The Yorkshire club have improved significantly since then though, and are realistic challengers for the Championship play offs.
Blackpool have lost the last two games on home soil – to Mansfield and Luton – while Barnsley have won three of the last four at home. The Tykes are a good bet to find their way into the fourth round.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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