Brighton vs Blackpool | Saturday 23rd January 2021, 15:00
Blackpool were one of the giant killers of round three, knocking out Premier League West Brom on penalties after a 2-2 draw. This time they face a long trek south to face top-flight opposition.
The Tangerines have steadily improved through the season with a good spell between late October and December. But a slow start has left them in a no man’s land position.
Last weekend, they held League One leaders Hull to a draw at the KC Stadium in their first game since their third-round triumph. While they can take positives from that point, they know they can hold their own against higher opposition.
Earlier this season, they travelled to Championship Stoke, in the League Cup, and forced penalties after a goalless draw. Ultimately they lost out, but Neil Critchley will be setting his side up similarly here. Plus, they showed in the last round that they can cause an upset.
Brighton are fighting for survival in the Premier League, and the question I pose is whether you could back a side to win at 4/9 just because they’re in a higher league? Not for me!
I don’t think ‘home advantage’ counts for too much either with Graham Potter’s side failing to win at the Amex in the league this season. Their record stands at P9, W0, D5, L4.
Their only home win came in the League Cup against Portsmouth, so it’s not something I could trust.
In the previous round, League Two side Newport took them to penalties. Potter’s side did have chances to put the game to bed, but a late error from Jason Steele took them to the penalties before he turned the hero during the shootout.
During his Thursday press conference, Potter said he’d be without several players, at least six, so it might force him to play a changed side, which could play into Blackpool’s hands.
In League One away games, Blackpool have an expected goals against (xGA) of 1.08xGA, which is the third-lowest figure, so they’ll make Brighton work hard to break them down and cut out clear chances.
So, I’m willing to take the League One side on the Asian handicap in this one. I just can’t see them being blown away on the south coast.
In nine league defeats this season, Blackpool have only lost by a two-plus margin twice – that’s seven losses by just a solitary goal. Go further into the numbers and five of their six away defeats have come by a single goal.
Taking Blackpool +1.25 looks reasonable at 22/25 on Bet365. It’s only a loss if the visitors go down by a two-goal or wider margin. It’ll be a half win even if they lose by a goal.
So, with Brighton winless in the league at home, Blackpool rarely being blown away in games and already proving they’re capable of dealing with higher league opposition in both cup competitions this seasons, this angle is one I’m willing to take.
Sheffield United v Plymouth | Saturday 23rd January 2021, 15:00
In a similar train of thought, I’ll take a League One side to hold their own up against Premier League opposition.
In the last round, Plymouth visited Yorkshire, beating Championship Huddersfield 3-2, so Ryan Lowe’s men will hold no fear for what awaits, especially with Sheffield Utd’s record this season.
It’s just one win in the league for the Blades, but the cup might offer a welcome distraction. They came past Bristol Rovers 3-2 in the previous round, and there are a few angles I’m going to take from that game for this one.
Sheffield Utd reached the quarter-final stage last season and will hope to do the same this term. In last year’s fourth-round match, they beat Reading 2-1 AET – that was 1-1 after 90 minutes – before losing by the same scoreline to Arsenal, so goals are common in their cup ties.
If you turn the clock a bit further, then you’ll see non-league AFC Fylde came to Bramall Lane and managed to find the net, so there’s hope for this Plymouth side.
The League 1 side are unbeaten in their last four games and have scored seven goals across those games. They’ll be buoyed after picking up their first away league win at Sunderland on Tuesday.
Joe Edwards scored the winner – his second goal in three games – while striker Luke Jephcott is earning plenty of admirers. The 20-year-old has bagged 13 goals in 19 starts, including five in his last six.
Jephcott is 2/1 to strike during the game here and for someone as prolific as him, against a defence with one clean sheet this season could be a nice angle.
But I’ll take Both Teams To Score with these two sides finding clean sheets hard to come by. At 10/11 it’s appealing enough given how open this could be.
Plymouth will pose plenty of threat. They have a 1.35xG per away game in League One (inside the top 10), while they rank top for shots (305) and third for attempts on target (101). That’s enough attacking threat to trouble this so-called Premier League defence.
Sheffield Utd did name a strong side in that third-round game, so Wilder is likely to go with his best team once more just to try and build some fluidity and confidence into their play.
I do think the goals could flow in this one, so there’s a player to take to score in 90 minutes priced up at 17/2 with Unibet.
That’s Jayden Bogle. It’s becoming a popular pick for a resident of this parish, Jimmy The Punt, but it also has its merits to backing once more. I noticed how he kept popping up in advanced positions against Spurs, and, at times, he was the furthest forward for the Blades, generally in central areas around the box.
The 20-year-old has scored twice in his last five, including the winner in the previous round. More encouragingly for backing a goal, he’s not shot-shy. 10 shots in his last five, so an average of two per game.
Break down those numbers further and they show 3, 3 & 2 in his last three appearances – and he’s played a full 90 in all of them to boost confidence he’ll be involved until the final whistle.