The FA Cup third round begins this week and after a long and arduous qualifying campaign for non-league and lower league clubs, it’s time for the big boys to join the action. There are some mouth-watering ties in store, and as always pundits, fans and punters alike will be looking for potential giant-killings. Liverpool travel to Exeter on Friday evening in what is likely to be a tricky match on a cut up pitch, while Villa face Wycombe in Saturday lunchtime’s televised game. These two may well be the upsets of the round, but there are plenty of other great games to look forward to, including several all-Premier-League match-ups.
Crystal Palace catch the eye at a huge price to repeat last year’s fourth round victory away at Southampton when they travel to St. Mary’s on Saturday afternoon. While West Brom and West Ham both make plenty of appeal at home against Championship sides. Another Premier League clash is between Arsenal and Sunderland, and Black Cat’s boss Sam Allardyce has made no secret of the fact that he is disappointed with the schedule that sees his team play two league games during the following week. He insists that this gives him no choice but to rest players, although the short price on Arsenal and Wenger’s own reluctance to play a full side in this competition make it a game best swerved.
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Palace are a decent shout at 18/54.60+3603.603.60-0.28 with BetVictor, with Southampton at an all-time low under Ronald Koeman.
The Eagles beat the Saints here in the fourth round of the FA Cup last January, and they’re worth following to repeat the trick, especially considering Southampton’s recent troubles. After a superb 4-0 win against Arsenal in their last home game the Saints looked to be turning a corner, only to suffer back-to-back away defeats at West Ham and Norwich. Midfielder Sadio Mane was dropped from the starting line-up against the Canaries after missing a pre-match meeting, and Koeman described his actions as “unacceptable”. That cannot account for the south coast side’s poor form over the last month or two though, and it’s now 7 defeats in 9 games since the end of November. The only points they have to show for their efforts are from a draw with bottom club Aston Villa and that shock win against Arsenal.
Palace have fared much better this season and the 3-0 home defeat to a resurgent Chelsea was their first loss in seven games. Their away from has been particularly good this season with the likes of Gayle and Zaha able to hit teams on the break, and on away form only they’d sit 4th in the Premier League. As stated they won here in this competition last season, and beat the Saints 1-0 on home ground less than one month ago. With those statistics in mind, the price on a Palace win looks somewhat out.
West Brom v Bristol City
West Brom are anther side that stand out at 73/1001.73-1370.73-1.370.73 with Skybet and Coral when they take on Championship strugglers Bristol City.
Tony Pulis has guided West Brom to 12th with consecutive wins over Newcastle and former club Stoke, and they’ve developed a nice nine-point cushion over the relegation zone. That should give them the confidence to go and have a good tilt at this competition without the immediate fear of relegation, and Bristol City are unlikely to provide the stiffest of opposition.
The Robins have lost four of their last five Championship away games, and find themselves languishing in the relegation zone, albeit by goal difference only. It could actually be they who decide to rest players with survival in mind, and it’s very hard to see them getting anything here. They’ve been beaten 4-0 by both Derby and Burnley on their last two visits to the North and Midlands, and they should be cannon fodder for a decent quality West Brom team.
Albion haven’t been wonderful at home this year, but they have won three of the last five at the Hawthorns, and they can be expected to make short work of City.
West Ham v Wolves
West Ham are another Premier League home side who can beat Championship opposition – this time in the slightly more difficult shape of Wolves. The Hammers are rated a 3/41.75-1330.75-1.330.75 chance with Bet365, Paddy Power and Skybet
It was only last Saturday lunchtime that West Ham beat Liverpool 2-0 in front of their own fans, completing a league double over the Merseyside club, and they will fancy their chances of coming through this one relatively unscathed. They are unbeaten in 8 home games, and although they’ve been drawing a few too many, there are several players returning from injury who have helped to turn those draws back into wins. The likes of Dimitri Payet and Alex Song have both returned to the fold recently along with Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll, and while manager Slaven Bilic may well rest some of his star players, they should still be too good for Wolves.
The Molineux club are 11th in this season’s Championship, and will be hoping for another push for the play-offs after going agonizingly close last term. They’ve actually won three of their last four away games at Brighton, Charlton and Rotherham; but they’ve also recently been beaten at Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and Derby. None of those sides have the quality of West Ham, and it’s also worth noting that Slaven Bilic’s remit this season by the Hammers board was to secure their Premier League status and have a good cup run. With Premier League survival more or less in the bag already at this early stage, Saturday’s game will be one he is expected to win and West Ham shouldn’t make any mistakes.
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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