There’s more FA Cup matches to come on Sunday and Monday as several Premier League sides are in third round action. The Christmas rush of games has barely finished but the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and West Ham are thrust back into the thick of it with games against lower league opposition on Sunday. Meanwhile, the final game of the weekend is an all-Premier League affair and a derby as Brighton host Crystal Palace.
Arsenal fought back for a late 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday but they are in calmer waters with a trip to Championship side Nottingham Forest. Arsene Wenger is almost certain to play a second-string side but considering the depth of the Gunners’ squad, that still usually means a team of international players. Forest will be fired up to cause a shock but this is a side which has won just once in eight games and concedes goals at an alarming rate.
Spurs are very short odds to beat AFC Wimbledon at home on Sunday so they are passed over in favour of midweek antagonists West Ham. The Hammers frustrated Spurs on Thursday night with a backs-to-the-wall display but they were value for the point. A more attacking strategy should be deployed against Shrewsbury and David Moyes’ men ought to be able to secure passage to the fourth round.
On Monday Brighton and Crystal Palace renew rivalries in a derby which has all the makings of a tight match. Both sides are in the bottom half of the Premier League, where survival is top of the priority list, but bragging rights should ensure a very competitive game.
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
We’re sticking our necks out and backing Arsenal to defy a -1.5 Asian handicap at odds of +148 with 888Sport.
The Gunners have been firing in recent matches, scoring three against Palace and Liverpool in two of the last four matches. Arsene Wenger is sure to give some stars a rest but those fringe players trying to break into the first team might find a generous Forest defence to help boost their case.
The Nottingham club has conceded 42 goals in the Championship this term and only clubs in the bottom five have worse records. They’ve lost the last two at home – to Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland – without scoring a goal, and have only won two of the last ten matches overall.
Arsenal are a fair bet to find the gaps in the Forest defence and come away with a comfortable victory.
Shrewsbury v West Ham
We’re also backing West Ham to win on the road at odds of -109 with BetVictor.
The Hammers dug deep last week to snatch a late victory over West Brom on Tuesday before a dogged rear-guard display on Thursday against Spurs. Those four points will be vital for league positioning, but the performances demonstrated the grit and determination that David Moyes has brought to his new club – if not the free-flowing football. A cup run would certainly put a gloss on what has been considered a poor season in East London so far. That quick double of games means that West Ham are likely to be without various first-teamers but they should still be capable of dominating a game against League One opposition.
Shrewsbury will be no pushover by any means. They’ve won six of the last eight matches since back-to-back defeats against Bradford and Bury, and occupy the 2nd automatic promotion spot in the division. The Shrews also endured a run of four games in nine days over the festive period so have their own fitness and team selection issues to deal with. One suspects there will be few changes to the first team as they will want to play high-profile opposition, but the Hammers are taken to justify favouritism in the end.
Brighton v Crystal Palace
The draw is the value call when the Seagulls entertain the Eagles, at odds of +220 with 888Sport.
Remarkably, Brighton have drawn six of their last eight games at home, while Palace have drawn three of their last five at home. Those records include the 0-0 Premier League draw here at the end of November.
The sides are now separated by one point and two place in the bottom half of the table and both will be looking over their shoulders for the rest of the season. With survival in mind, and after the rush of Christmas games, both managers are likely to leave players out and it will be interesting to see how the teams eventually line-up.
This is a long-standing derby in English football, however, so there ought to be an edge to the game even if it involves a smattering of fringe players. Palace are in the better current form but Brighton have only lost twice at home all season and this match looks set to follow a familiar pattern of Seagulls’ stalemates.
Arsenal -1.5 to beat Forest (Asian Handicap)
Sunday 7th January, 16:00 GMT
West Ham to beat Shrewsbury
Sunday 7th January, 14:00 GMT
Brighton and Crystal Palace to Draw
Monday 8th January, 19:45 GMT