The Premier League’s top three are in FA Cup third round action on Sunday, and all have home games against lower division opposition. Spurs may have beaten Chelsea during the week to keep the title race open, but the Blues are still five points clear at the top and a Stamford Bridge tie against League One Peterborough should see them back to winning ways. Second in the league Liverpool look to have an easy route to the fourth round when they entertain League Two Plymouth at Anfield, while Spurs arguably have the toughest fixture as they welcome last year’s relegated Aston Villa to White Hart Lane.
Understandably the bookies are taking no chances on Sunday, with each of the big guns heavily odds-on to win their respective games. It’s hard to see any of the three failing to win comfortably, so the best option is to find a way to back them to win at better odds. Such is the gap in class in these fixtures that it could pay dividends to back the Premier League sides to put the games to bed early by taking a lead into half time. Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool are all more than capable of covering the HT/FT double result, and the odds available on them doing it are much more acceptable.
Tottenham v Aston Villa
Spurs are -110 with Coral to be leading at 45 minutes and at 90 minutes.
The 2-0 win over Chelsea will have flooded Tottenham’s players with confidence, and anyone watching the match will tell you it was fully deserved. The FA Cup won’t be Mauricio Pochettino’s priority this term, but his squad has enough depth to cope if he elects to rest players. They welcome Championship Aston Villa, but with the Villains promotion challenge faltering, it could be Steve Bruce who opts to make more changes.
A former stalwart of the Premier League, Villa were relegated last season after flirting with the drop for a few years, and an immediate return looks far from certain. the Claret and Blues are only 12th in the table and have seven points to make up just to get into the play off picture. One of the reasons they went down last season was their terrible away form, and although Steve Bruce has led his new club to two away wins at Reading and QPR, they were the only two road victories in over a year. Villa are 16th on the Championship away table with a record that reads 2-5-6.
It’s unlikely that they will improve upon that road form at a Spurs side which is firing on all cylinders right now. It’s six wins in a row on home soil for Tottenham (if you include the Champions League tie against CSKA at Wembley), and Spurs were leading at half-time in four of them. recent matches against the Premier League’s lesser lights Swansea and Hull have resulted in 5-0 and 3-0 wins in which the bet would have landed, and this match could easily go the same way.
Chelsea v Peterborough
Similarly Chelsea are worth backing to take a half-time lead against Peterborough and see it through to victory at -161 with Coral.
The Blues 13-game winning streak may have come to an end in that 2-0 defeat at Spurs, but a 7-game winning run at Stamford Bridge is undamaged. Antonio Conte has seen his side leading at half-time in five of those seven matches – the opposition including Manchester United, Leicester and Everton. With no European distractions the Italian manager may elect to play a strong side here in the knowledge his squad can sustain a cup run, but even if he rest some of his stars there is more than enough quality to come in.
Peterborough will enjoy a big cup tie against the Premier League leaders, but realistically are on a hiding to nothing at Stamford Bridge. Posh are 8th in League One – two points outside the play offs – and promotion back to the Championship is the aim this season. They can at least boast a seven game unbeaten run stretching back to a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Scunthorpe, but it’s hard to see them living with Chelsea.
Liverpool v Plymouth
The same applies to Liverpool when they take on Plymouth at Anfield, and again the best odds are -161 with Coral
The Reds were the biggest beneficiaries of Tottenham’s win over Chelsea, the gap at the top closing to five points despite Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Sunderland. However, Jurgen Klopp’s men are a good bet this season in general in the HT-FT market – particularly at Anfield. It’s seven wins in eight games at their home stadium, and Liverpool have been leading at half-time in five of those seven victories.
Plymouth – like Liverpool – are also riding high in their division, occupying 2nd place on the League Two ladder. Clearly promotion to League One is the target this term, but a cup tie at Anfield is the stuff of dreams for lower tier players and they will be sure to soak in every moment. Three defeats in the last six away games doesn’t read well though, and one suspects that this game could be over as a contest by 45 minutes.
Tottenham HT/FT Double Result
Sunday 8th January, 16:00 GMT
Chelsea HT/FT Double Result
Sunday 8th January, 15:00 GMT
Liverpool HT/FT Double Result
Sunday 8th January, 13:30 GMT