Walsall v Leicester
Walsall have only lost two of 14 league games since the start of October (W8-D4-L2) and a sample table of just these matches shows that they are fifth during this run, despite playing at least one less match than their opponents. However, this clash against Leicester will be a different test to what they regularly come up against in League Two.
Leicester’s poor form has somewhat carried on as they let in an 88th-minute equaliser from Evan Ferguson to draw against Brighton (2-2). The Foxes’ defensive woes continue to plague them as they’ve conceded two or more in four of their last five Premier League matches and in 11 of 20 this season.
We expect Leicester to play a strong team here given they aren’t involved in the League Cup anymore and considering Walsall are 65 places behind the Foxes in the English footballing pyramid, we can only see this going one way. Their 1-0 win over Gillingham in the previous round may give Walsall some hope as Gillingham are 23rd in League Two, 17 points behind Walsall having played a game more.
That being said, Leicester are still the supreme favourites and they will want to get as far as they can in this competition, if only to offset the awful season they’re having in the league.
Southampton v Blackpool
Nathan Jones has a good chance to get some momentum going with a win here and although it is only Blackpool, a victory here may spark this Southampton side into life. They’ve lost seven of eight league matches now, though did also dump Crystal Palace and Man City out of the FA Cup and League Cup respectively.
Blackpool secured a 4-1 win over Premier League outfit Nottingham Forest in the previous round, though a defeat at Watford in their latest match leaves them without a league win in 10 appearances (D4-L6). They’re now second-from-bottom in the Championship, with veteran boss Mick McCarthy drafted in to try and save them, with this his first game at the helm.
Southampton have been severely struggling in defence and they’ve only kept one clean sheet in the league all year, which was in a 1-0 win over Bournemouth. This game could be a good chance to give their defenders some confidence as Blackpool have failed to score in 41% of their Championship games this year.
The bookies are however banking on Blackpool to get a goal here, as the both teams to score (yes) market is odds on. This will be due to the Seasiders’ record of scoring in five of their last six in all competitions, including the four they put past Forest, and because of this we are going to recommend both teams scoring.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Fulham v Sunderland
Fulham are hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat, though given their last two outings saw them go down 1-0 to top-six outfits Newcastle and Tottenham, they should have an easier time of things here. They had won their previous five games, scoring 10 times and conceding just twice, as only Leicester (1-0) prevented the Cottagers from netting two goals.
Both teams have scored in 33 of 52 encounters (63%) between Premier League and Championship sides in the FA Cup fourth round since 2012/13, with only five occasions where the top-flight outfit drew a blank. Given Fulham have only failed to score three times in 19 appearances now, despite those recent 1-0 losses to Newcastle and Tottenham, they should be able to put at least one past a Sunderland side struggling for clean sheets, even if Aleksandar Mitrovic is a slight doubt.
Sunderland shouldn’t prove to be pushovers, fresh off the back of a Tees-Wear derby win over Middlesbrough, though the 2-0 victory also represented a first shut out in eight games for the Black Cats, with both sides scoring in the other seven. Sunderland have also found the net in all but one of their past 11 on the road, with both teams on the scoreboard in eight of those.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Preston North End v Tottenham
It’s all or nothing for Preston as they’re without a draw since October 1st, with 10 wins and eight defeats since then. Every game saw them pitted against Championship opposition however, as their sole cup encounter during this run came versus Huddersfield, as Tottenham represent a big step up in quality.
Preston are now W2-D2-L7 in the FA Cup since February 2015, though both teams scored in nine of the 11 games, as they even managed to score in defeats to top sides Man Utd and Arsenal. They also found the net in defeat to Wolves in the League Cup this term, suggesting they can get at Premier League side’s backlines.
Despite Antonio Conte’s reputation as a defensive coach, and with the Italian employing two sitting midfielders ahead of a back three, his side have only mustered a measly three clean sheets from 15 appearances since mid-October. Given he has a near fully fit squad, with Lucas Moura his only absentee and fellow attacker Bryan Gil a doubt, there could be some rotation at the back with the likes of Fraser Forster, Davinson Sanchez and Japhet Tanganga in line for opportunities.
The potential absence of Argentine World Cup winner Cristian Romero threatens to throw the defence into disarray, with the club registering just three clean sheets from 11 domestic matches he hasn’t started this term. Two of those came back in August, while the other came against mid-table League One outfit Portsmouth, who were in the midst of a seven-game winless run that saw them lose five times. Tottenham’s superior talent should see them over the line, but Preston can grab a consolation effort even without attackers Liam Delap (ineligible) and Emil Riis (injured).
SPURS TO WIN AND BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Man Utd v Reading
United bounced back from their 3-2 defeat at Arsenal to comfortably dismantle Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the first leg of their League Cup meeting. Wout Weghorst grabbed his first goal for the club and Marcus Rashford continued his fine form, with a 10th goal from as many appearances since the World Cup, as the 25-year-old only failed to score in one of these games. Given progress to the League Cup final is virtually assured, Rashford should retain his starting spot, with the second leg against Forest in United’s next game a better opportunity to hand the in-form man a rest.
Reading head into this fixture off the back of a 4-0 defeat away to Stoke, leaving them with just a single win across their past five now. Performances on the road have been particularly dreadful under Paul Ince, with the club just W4-D4-L14 since his appointment a year ago, as there’s been a solitary victory across their past 10 trips. Nine of those 14 defeats saw Reading fail to score, while they conceded at least twice on 11 occasions and four times in five games.
United may have only kept one clean sheet in four appearances, but two of these games were against Arsenal and Man City, while Michael Olise grabbed a late equalizer when the Red Devils visited Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Since a chastening 6-3 defeat to Man City back in early October, the club has produced an impressive turnaround (W17-D3-L2), as they registered clean sheets in 11 of those victories.
That record is even more stark when limited to results at Old Trafford. The recent Manchester derby took them to a 10th straight win there, while there have been nine clean sheets from their past 12 on home turf. Championship leaders Burnley (2-0) and League One side Charlton (3-0) were amongst the vanquished, as a spot of rotation shouldn’t impede the Red Devils’ chances of another win with an accompanying clean sheet.
MAN UNITED TO WIN TO NIL
RASHFORD TO SCORE ANYTIME
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