The FA Cup third round is the highlight of the English football calendar in midweek, with no less than nine ties to be settled at the second time of asking. No doubt the highlight is the rematch between Liverpool and Plymouth, after the Pilgrims fought to a valiant draw at Anfield last weekend.
In other matches, Burnley and Sunderland will contest an all Premier League affair on Tuesday night, while Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace welcome his old club Bolton to Selhurst Park on the same evening. Newcastle and Southampton both return to home comforts on Wednesday evening as they look to finish off their respective ties with Birmingham and Norwich.
The latter pair of Newcastle and Southampton are fancied to prove too strong in front of their own fans, but Bolton might give under-performing Palace a hard time – especially if big Sam elects to rotate his squad. It was not so much rotation as replacement for Jurgen Klopp in the 0-0 draw with Plymouth previously, so it will be interesting to see how many players that started against Manchester United survive in Wednesday’s starting line up.
Plymouth v Liverpool
The bet that stands out in that match, is a punt on draw HT/Liverpool FT at +350 with BetVictor.
Klopp fielded the youngest side ever in the Reds history in the cup tie against the Pilgrims, and he defended his decision despite criticism from some corners. In fairness to the players that took to the field, they managed 77% possession and 28 attempts, but ultimately failed to find the breakthrough.
Much of that was down to Plymouth’s excellent defensive shift, and the League Two title-chasers limited the Reds to just four shots on target. Manager Derek Adams said the replay at Home Park will be a ‘welcome to the real world’ for Liverpool, and it’s sure to be a fiery atmosphere at the compact little stadium on the south coast.
Liverpool are recovering from a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, and face Swansea at Anfield in the lunchtime kick off on Saturday. That’s a quick turnaround for the squad, and Klopp has made no secret of his disdain for the English fixture planner. One suspects that several fringe players will get a run out again, but the German manager might include one or two more experienced faces too. An away game at lower league opposition is a different ball game to playing them at Anfield in front of a packed house of fans.
Plymouth will be playing the ‘game of their lives’ for the second time in 10 days, but they didn’t drop the ball in the league – beating Stevenage 4-2 at the weekend. The Pilgrims have every chance of giving Liverpool a scare, and one would not be surprised to see them adopt a conservative approach again and reach half time all square. The Reds class may tell in the end – especially as home players tire – and Liverpool are taken to win in the second half.
Crystal Palace v Bolton
Crystal Palace have been just as poor under Allardyce as they were under Pardew, with the new manager failing to have the desired impact as yet. It’s been five matches since the former England boss took charge, and the Eagles have just one Premier League point to show from their four league games. Defeats have come against Arsenal Swansea and West Ham since the draw at Watford on Boxing Day. Their other match was this FA Cup tie at Bolton’s Reebok stadium, and that was a fairly even game which Bolton may have just shaded.
The reason to back the Trotters here is because Allardyce is the type of Premier League survivalist that makes pragmatic decisions. After the 3-0 humbling at West Ham, he will probably only have eyes for Saturday’s home match against Everton. Allardyce has form for this – when he was manager of the Hammers he put out a side of youth players to lose 5-0 at Nottingham Forest in the third round in 2014. With Palace a mere point off the bottom of the Premier League, we’ll take the chance that big Sam writes this one off.
Southampton v Norwich
Southampton may not be in great form, but Norwich are in something of a crisis. The Canaries have dropped to 11th in the table, and the speculation around manager Alex Neil is refusing to go away. Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to rock-bottom Rotherham was a shocker, with striker Nelson Oliveria sent off inside 18 minutes for violent conduct. The Norfolk side have lost six of the last seven on the road, and it’s not hard to imagine Neil concentrating on the upcoming pair of home games against Wolves and Birmingham. They could decide his future.
The Saints have only won one in six matches, but that was the very impressive 1-0 win over Liverpool in the EFL Cup semi-final. Claude Puel could be forgiven for concentrating on the second leg of that tie next week (and the Premier League game against Leicester at the weekend), but his side have enough quality to overcome an out-of-form Norwich.
Draw HT/Liverpool FT Double Result
Wednesday 18th January, 19:45 GMT
Bolton or Draw Double Chance
Tuesday 17th January, 20:00 GMT
Southampton to beat Norwich
Wednesday 18th January, 19:45 GMT
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