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The world’s oldest footballing competition continues this weekend – this time, with the big guns joining in at the third round of action. Cup competitions are usually filled with surprises and loads of upsets, and after what promised to be a hectic festive season of football in the late stages of December, teams could opt to take a breather and afford opportunities to their younger players, while some would see it as their only way of silverware.

Friday 4 January

11/1 Tranmere | Draw 52/10 | Tottenham 1/5 (21:45)
Tottenham will be expected to breeze past League Two outfit Tranmere Rovers on Friday night as they search for their first piece of silverware under Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs’ last proper trophy was the League Cup in 2008 and they haven’t won the FA Cup since 1991, or the English league since 1961. But Spurs keep improving season after season under the Argentine and this could be the year they finally have something to show for it. At the time of writing, Pochettino’s side are above Manchester City in the Premier League and are also in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup where they face Chelsea in a two-legged clash. I’m expecting an easy win for Spurs. Back them on the (-1) Handicap at 11/20. 

Saturday 5 January

1/7 Manchester United | 6/1 | Reading 16/1 (14:30)
Last season’s FA Cup finalists, Manchester United, welcome Reading to Old Trafford on Saturday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be desperate to guide the Reds to silverware in his short stint at the club and the FA Cup is probably his best chance of doing so. United have already shown promising signs under the Norwegian, with Paul Pogba, in particular, seemingly relishing the change of management. The Reds have won the competition 12 times in history with their last success coming in the 2015-16 season, with Jesse Lingard’s memorable last-minute stunner seeing off Crystal Palace. Standing in United’s way of adding to their trophy cabinet is Reading, who are enduring a tough season in the Championship. The Royals are 23rd in the table – at the time of writing – with just four league wins. For value, take Solskjaer’s side to Score in Both Halves at 13/20.

17/20 Bournemouth | 24/10 | Brighton 33/10 (14:30)
Bournemouth host Brighton on Saturday in an all‑Premier League affair. The Cherries are far from the drop zone, however, Eddie Howe’s side are struggling to find their rhythm with eight defeats from their last 10 matches, at the time of writing. But even in that terrible form, Bournemouth claimed a 2-0 victory over the Seagulls at the Vitality Stadium last month. Interestingly, the Cherries knocked Brighton out of the League Cup last season, with a 1-0 home win after extra time. Chris Hughton’s men also lost the league encounter away from home 2-1 four days earlier. The Seagulls have struggled on the road this season and I fancy Howe’s side to get the job done in 90 minutes.

1/5 Chelsea | 52/10 | Nottingham 11/1 (17:00)
FA Cup holders Chelsea will begin the defence of their trophy with a home match against Championship side Nottingham Forest on Saturday. The Reds will be hoping to defy the odds and cause an upset against Maurizio Sarri’s men. It will be the second year in a row that Forest have faced the cup holders, having memorably knocked out Arsenal at this stage last season. In fact, on five of the last six times they’ve faced the competition’s holders, the Reds have proved triumphant. However, their last clash with Chelsea came last season when the Blues won 5-1 in the Carabao Cup. With Sarri also looking to win his first trophy as a manager, expect the Italian to put out a strong team as he has done in the Carabao Cup and Europa League this season. Take Chelsea to Win to Nil at 17/20.

19/2 Blackpool | 47/10 | Arsenal 1/4 (19:30)
Unai Emery’s Arsenal travel to Bloomfield Road to face League One outfit Blackpool in Saturday’s late kick-off. The Gunners, the most successful side in the FA Cup with 13 trophies, were knocked out of the competition at this stage last season as Nottingham Forest claimed a memorable 4-2 victory at the City Ground. Emery will be determined to avoid an early exit and take the north Londoners far into the tournament. This will be the second time that these sides face each other with Emery’s side claiming a 2-1 win in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup in October. I’m backing Arsenal to end Blackpool’s Cup run once again this season, but with the odds too short on the straight win, I suggest taking the Gunners to Win & Both Teams to Score at 31/20.

Sunday 6 January

1/16 Manchester City | 19/2 | Rotherham 25/1 (16:00)
Manchester City will be expected to breeze into the fourth round of the FA Cup when they host Championship strugglers Rotherham on Sunday. The five-time winners of the competition will be looking to atone for being knocked out at the fifth round stage by League One side Wigan last season and Pep Guardiola would love to get his hands on the FA Cup, having already won the Premier League, Community Shield and EFL Cup with the Citizens. Rotherham, who currently sit 21st in the Championship, are no match for City. Guardiola’s side are too short at 1/16 so I suggest leaving them out of your bets, but if you really want to bet on this game, take City to Win By Three Or More Goals at 11/20.

Monday 7 January

33/10 Wolves | 26/10 | Liverpool 15/20 (21:45)
The toughest third-round tie in the FA Cup will take place on Monday night as high-flyers Liverpool take on a vicious Wolves side at the Molineux in another all‑Premier League affair. At the time of writing, Jurgen Klopp’s side are top of the table and yet to taste defeat, while Wolves are in 10th position. These sides met in the league last month with the Reds claiming a 2-0 victory at the Molineux, courtesy of goals from Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool will be confident of victory over Wolves, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are fearless and will throw the kitchen sink at the Reds. The hosts have impressed against the top sides this season, drawing with both the Manchester clubs as well as Arsenal and beating Chelsea at the Molineux. Wolves stunned Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2017 with a deserved 2-1 victory at Anfield. I’m tipping a draw at 26/10.

FA Cup Outright Betting

4/1 MAN CITY
6/1 LIVERPOOL
7/1 CHELSEA
8/1 TOTTENHAM
9/1 MAN UNITED
10/1 ARSENAL
20/1 EVERTON
25/1 LEICESTER
33/1 WEST HAM
40/1 WOLVERHAMPTON
50/1 BAR & BETTER

 

TREBLE @ 4/1
Tottenham (-1) Handicap 11/20
Bournemouth Win 17/20
Chelsea (-1) Handicap 17/20

Chad Nagel

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