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West Midlands neighbours Birmingham and Walsall are the English FA Cup third round outsiders who look worthy of speculative wagers against higher ranked opponents.
Birmingham, eighth in the English Championship, came out of the English FA Cup third round hat with Bournemouth, which is 16th on the English Premier League ladder. One is sure that Birmingham will take Saturday’s English FA Cup match seriously but one is not so confident that Bournemouth will.
Bournemouth’s last visit to St Andrew’s was one of the most embarrassing games in Birmingham’s history and it was only 15 months ago. Bournemouth won 8-0 at Birmingham in last season’s English Championship, a match that resulted in Blues suffering their record league defeat. Bournemouth opened the scoring in the third minute and the Cherries destroyed Birmingham after Blues went down to 10 players seven minutes into the game. Gary Rowett signed on as the new manager of Birmingham two days after Blues capitulated to Bournemouth in front of their own supporters and the former Blues defender is doing a fine rebuilding job.
Birmingham is going to be 100 per cent motivated to put on a decent show when Bournemouth returns to St Andrew’s and one is not sure that the Cherries will treat the English FA Cup match with the same respect. Staying in the English Premier League is worth much more to a team such as Bournemouth than progressing to the English FA Cup fourth round. Bournemouth does not have a big squad – at least not by English Premier League standards – and the Cherries have a series of really important top-flight fixtures on the horizon, including back-to-back home games versus West Ham and Norwich and a trip to Sunderland. Bournemouth’s next three English Premier League matches may go a long way to determining its future and one thinks that Cherries boss Eddie Howe is likely to prioritise his side’s divisional games against West Ham, Norwich and Sunderland over its English FA Cup involvement.
Bournemouth is odds on across the board to win Saturday’s English FA Cup third round match at Birmingham and that is something that one cannot entertain. Betfred are offering odds of +320 about Birmingham avenging its humiliating loss to Bournemouth from October 2014 and one can see those odds dropping over the coming days.
Brentford versus Walsall would not have caught the eye of many English FA Cup followers but it is a significant game because of the recent history between the Bees and the Saddlers. Brentford coach Dean Smith was the long-serving manager of Walsall until November when he and his offsider, Richard O’Kelly, accepted offers to join the Bees. Walsall players and fans have had their eyes on Saturday’s English FA Cup third round match ever since the Saddlers qualified for the last 64 with a replay victory over Chesterfield – the result really matters to them and an upset is on the cards because it may not matter as much to Brentford.
Like Bournemouth, Brentford has its eyes on a league prize and that is qualification for the English Championship play-offs. Brentford’s next three games, which will take place over a seven-day period, will be at home to Walsall in the English FA Cup, home to Middlesbrough in the English Championship and home to Burnley in the league competition. One has no doubt whatsoever that Brentford will prioritise its English Championship matches over its English FA Cup game even though Smith’s former team is its knockout foe.
Betfred again, are offering odds of +350 about Walsall shocking Brentford in the English FA Cup third round. Would it be a shock if Brentford and Bournemouth fielded second-string sides against Walsall and Birmingham? Again, one is expecting Walsall’s odds to contract and they may shrink dramatically depending on the final team news.
Birmingham to beat Bournemouth
9th January 15:00 GMT
Walsall to beat Brentford
9th January 15:00 GMT
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