Millwall v Crystal Palace
Palace have hit a slight sticky patch having lost five of their last eight games. However, since the start of December, the only sides to beat them have been European-chasing outfits Man Utd, Tottenham and West Ham, while they’ve beaten Everton and Norwich as well as claiming a point against Southampton. Overall, the Eagles have impressed this season and with a mid-table berth at present, they don’t need to worry about a relegation scrap and can field their strongest available line-up here.
Patrick Vieira is likely to be without Conor Gallagher and James McArthur again, while Wilfried Zaha, Cheikhou Kouyate and Jordan Ayew are at the Africa Cup of Nations, though Eberechi Eze could be in line for his first start back from injury. Youngster Michael Olise will be certain to start after a goal and an assist rom the bench last time out, and with the likes of Cristian Benteke, Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta all available, the visitors should still pose too much firepower for their second-tier hosts to handle.
Indeed, Millwall have registered just a solitary clean sheet in eight games, including defeats in three of their last five appearances. They’ll also be without centre-back Danny Ballard and the versatile Ryan Leonard, while key attacking threat Jed Wallace is a doubt to feature amid interest from other clubs.
CRYSTAL PALACE TO WIN
Leicester v Watford
Leicester begin the defence of their FA Cup title hosting a beleaguered Watford side, and it’s difficult to imagine Claudio Ranieri enjoying success over his former employers. The Hornets come into this fixture with a W2-D1-L11 stretching back into September, losing each of the last six on the bounce as they shipped 16 goals.
The Foxes haven’t been at all secure defensively either, with their surprising clean sheet hosting Liverpool last time out just their second from 20 appearances. However, they’ve remained dangerous in the final third, even managing to net 13 times across their past five matches, despite facing Napoli, Man City and Liverpool twice during that run.
Both sides have a ridiculous list of absentees for this clash. Leicester’s missing contingent includes the likes of Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka, Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu and Wilfried Ndidi, while both James Maddison, Harvey Barnes are major doubts.
However, Watford are also without key men a host of key men, including Ismaila Sarr and very likely Emmanuel Dennis, so the hosts’ greater strength in depth should see them prevail. Despite missing players all over the field, Brendan Rodgers can still can upon a front trio of Ademola Lookman, Ayoze Perez and Marc Albrighton, while Watford are down to the bare bones of a squad already lacking numbers.
LEICESTER TO WIN
West Brom v Brighton
Brighton have only lost once on the road this season over 90 minutes, even if there have been a large number of stalemates with seven of the last nine trips ending level. Another draw would be no surprise here with their hosts unbeaten in 10 at the Hawthorns, though the Baggies have fared poorly in recent times in domestic cup results against Premier League opposition.
West Brom will also be without suspended duo Alex Mowatt and Sam Johnstone, injured quartet Robert Snodgrass, Matt Phillips, Dara O’Shea and Kean Bryan, while Semi Ajayi is away at the Africa Cup of Nations. Brighton are also without a few players with Lewis Dunk and Jeremy Sarmiento long-term absentees, while the impressive Yves Bissouma is also away on international duty.
Although Brighton deservedly start as favourites, this clash looks unlikely to be laden with goals. Indeed, there have been fewer than three in nine of West Brom’s last 10, as seven of these saw just one strike or less. Brighton may have played out a five-goal thriller with Everton last time out, but they’ve still seen a maximum of two goals in 12 of their last 16 fixtures, as the other exceptions were against high-scoring outfits Man City, Liverpool and Leicester. That clash with the Toffees was the first in nine matches that breached the two-goal threshold, so all the signs point towards another tight encounter.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Hull v Everton
Hull opened their campaign with a resounding 4-1 win away at Preston before a dismal 15-game run where they went just W1-D4-L11. They have picked up since then with just two defeats from their last eight fixtures, though those came in their last two outings against Nottingham Forest and Blackpool, leaving them winless in four appearances now.
Everton are also in need of a tonic with defeat to Brighton in their last game leaving them just W1-D3-L8 since the start of October. However, Rafael Benitez has seen his squad’s injury problems reduce significantly with Richarlison, Andros Townsend and Yerry Mina the only players now ruled out, while Alex Iwobi is away at the Africa Cup of Nations. He also has a pair of new full-backs, Vitaly Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson, both of whom could be handed their debuts here.
The hosts have Matt Ingram, Tom Huddlestone and Will Jarvis back in contention, though Callum Elder went off injured early in their defeat to Blackpool last time out and is unlikely to make the cut, while the same is also true of Josh Magennis who lasted until the second half. Alfie Jones, Lewis Coyle and Joshua Emmanuel remain doubts, and their Premier League visitors should just edge this encounter owing to their greater squad depth.
EVERTON TO WIN
Swansea v Southampton
Southampton may only have tasted victory just once across their past eight outings, though they’ve still managed to pull away from the relegation zone, with just the single defeat from the last six of these as that came away at Arsenal. With four stalemates over this recent spell and with each of their past four victories coming by one-goal margins, they’re unlikely to dominate this fixture.
However, there hasn’t been a shortage of goals in the Saints’ recent outings with at least three in six of their last eight appearances, while both teams have found the net in five of the past six. They also have a problem at centre-back as Lyanco and Jack Stephens are doubts having contracted covid recently, while Mohammed Salisu is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Winger Moussa Djenepo is also in Cameroon for that tournament, while Che Adams, Valentino Livramento and William Smallbone are all doubts to feature as well. However, the Saints are visiting a ring-rusty Swansea side, who haven’t actually taken to the field since December 11th owing to a covid outbreak at the club.
The Welsh side had lost their final three games and they haven’t been secure defensively either, conceding eight times across those defeats, though they did manage to net three goals of their own. There have been at least three goals in eight of their past 11 games now and given their visitor’s lack of clean sheets, this could be an entertaining clash.
OVER 2.5 GOALS