CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out his three best bets in this weekend’s FA Cup Fourth Round ties.
Arsenal v Burnley | Saturday 15:00
Lots of navel-gazing as usual earlier this month when the big boys joined the FA Cup. “Has it lost it’s magic?”, “It’s a disgrace xxx fielded their reserves” and “Why are fans not turning up to watch these games?”. Yeah, whatever.
People need to accept that the world has moved on and the footballing landscape has changed so much that this competition will never get close to matching what it once was. Just accept it. Was the European Cup as vaunted 20 years ago as it is now? No. Things change, the world evolves, End of story.
I’m not a fan of the competition anymore and find it a nightmare to bet on but you’d have to say Arsenal have been rock-solid in the competition over the last two years.
Winners in 2014 and 2015, they haven’t lost an FA Cup game since they went out in the Fifth Round to Blackburn in February 2013. Essentially, they’ve owned this competition.
On Saturday they look to continue this brilliant run when they host Championship side Burnley. The Clarets are having an excellent season as they sit up in third in the Championship.
Sean Dyche’s side are also in rude recent health with 13 points procured from a possible 15 in their last five games. But surely this game is an afterthought?
This is the third season in a row they’ve been involved in a league promotion/relegation battle and in the previous two seasons fell at the first flight.
Arsenal are hoping to welcome back injured players Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck and perhaps Alexis Sanchez will get another run out to blow away the cobwebs of the last two months. If so, watch out Burnley.
Arsenal have won their last six FA Cup games at The Emirates and five of those have been by more than one goal. Tottenham, Everton, Hull, Middlesbrough and Coventry were all beaten with a bit to spare.
I’ll back the Gunners conceding 1.5 goals on the Asian Handicap at odds against 21/20 with Bet365.
Crystal Palace v Stoke | Saturday 15:00
It’s been a dreadful month for Crystal Palace. They were in the Top 6 on Christmas Day but now find themselves in the bottom half. Their dip in form looks to be a symptom of the absence of the exciting Yannick Bolasie, a player who’s wonderful to watch.
The most visible feature of this dip in form has been their inability to score goals. In the league they failed to score between Boxing Day and last Saturday (although that was an own goal) against Spurs.
Manager Alan Pardew has brought in the controversial Emmaunel Adebayor to spark some life into the attack and that might just be a smart move.
The Togolese firebrand is no man to trust in the long term but if you want a quick hit and a spurt of goals he ticks all the boxes. He’s unlikely to start on Saturday but if he’s introduced late into the game against a tired Stoke side he could reap the rewards.
Palace for all their post-festive period blues have been playing fairly well in the last fortnight. They knocked Southampton out the FA Cup, matched Manchester City for periods in their harsh 4-0 defeat and looked lively against Spurs last Saturday. One day soon it’s all going to click.
That day might just be Saturday as they take on a Stoke side hurting after losing a place in the Capital One Cup Final by virtue of a penalty shoot-out to Liverpool. It’s going to be tough for them to raise their game here one would imagine.
Now is the time for Palace to roar back to winning ways and I think they’ll do that on Saturday. They’ll be fresher than Stoke, are already playing well and have an exciting card to play in Adebayor.
Portsmouth v Bournemouth | Saturday 15:00
Perusing the FA Cup odds on Thursday night the price that struck me the most was that of Bournemouth’s. Its been nibbled since then but 11/8 is still available.
Let’s just take a step back and remind ourselves that three divisions separate these sides. Yes, three. Portsmouth, the 2008 FA Cup winners, now reside in League Two while Bournemouth mingle with the great, good and corrupt in the Premier League.
Of course we know the Cherries will play a second string side on Saturday but they done that in the last round too when they beat very good Championship side Birmingham.
One note of caution is that Portsmouth seem to gunning for a win here according to manager Paul Cook but I suppose you have to have faith in the three division gap.
Portsmouth were beaten last week at home by Oxford and this should prove a stiffer test. I’m keeping it simple and backing the Cherries at 11/8 to beat a side three divisions below them. I’ll kick myself if this chance escapes me.
Arsenal v Burnley – Arsenal -1.5 (21/20 Bet365)
Crystal Palace v Stoke – Crystal Palace to win (23/20 Betfred)
Portsmouth v Bournemouth – Bournemouth to win (11/8 Skybet)
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