The New Year signals the arrival of the elite clubs into the FA Cup, with the 3rd Round fixtures upon us this weekend. Will the Premier League clubs have things all their own way, or will the minnows spring a surprise or two? Either way, there is betting value to be had, read on to find out where.
Barnsley v Swansea City
Premier League Swansea travel to Championship side Barnsley at a time when the Welsh side are just beginning to show the same defensive solidity away from home as they do at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans have conceded just once during their last 3 road trips (Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa) and a decent performance from the backline should be enough to see them through this tie, as Barnsley have coughed up goals to visiting sides too frequently for their own good this term.
The Tykes have won 6 and lost 5 in front of their own fans, but they have kept the opposition at bay only once in their last 6 at home. At 6/4, the Swans look a decent price to go through against a Barnsley team who also lost influential captain Jacob Butterfield to injury this week.
Gillingham v Stoke City
One look at Gillingham’s home form illustrates immediately that this will be a tough tie for Stoke. The Gills have won 7 of 11 at home, and 5 of the last 6. They have been beaten just once at the Priestfield Stadium and will not be short on confidence. Historical trends also favour the home side – they have lost just 2 of 6 ties at home versus top flight teams, winning 3.
Stoke have yet to shake their reputation as poor travellers, despite recent wins at Blackburn and Wolves. This tie looks tricky, yet there is no guarantee that Tony Pulis will start his best team, and with a worrying reliance on Peter Crouch, backers of the Potters at 4/6 might find themselves extremely nervous once the teams are announced on Saturday. 5/1 about the hosts looks far more tempting at this stage.
West Bromich Albion v Cardiff City
West Brom have won just one of their last 6 at home, and only 2 all season. Scoring goals has been their problem. They have mustered just 7 in 10 games. Those figures make the 4/5 about them a little flattering. Especially given the news that Chris Brunt, so influential creatively, has been sidelined with a broken ankle.
Cardiff City have only recorded 4 away wins all term, but their form on the road has improved of late, seeing them pick up 3 wins and 3 draws from their last 6, including wins at Reading and Derby. With the Welsh club sat 3rd in the Championship table, just two points off automatic Promotion, this could easily be a Premier League fixture next season. The relative form of both clubs makes the 4/1 on Cardiff appear good value.