Take Palace to dethrone Wigan

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: January 24 2014, 9:34 GMT

Andy Schooler and Ben Coley pick out their best bets for Saturday's FA Cup action with Crystal Palace taken to KO holders Wigan.

Tony Pulis is doing a sterling job at Palace
Tony Pulis is doing a sterling job at Palace

I've been impressed by the impact Tony Pulis has made since taking over at Crystal Palace and feel they are overpriced at 14/5 to relinquish Wigan's grip on the FA Cup on Saturday, writes Andy Schooler.

Pulis took over with Palace looking near certainties for the drop yet, just two months on, they have climbed out of the relegation zone and now look to have a strong chance of Premier League survival.

The priority had to be to make Palace hard to beat and that was achieved in double-quick time.

In their first 12 league games, Palace let in 21 goals. With the same players and some simple training-ground coaching, Pulis' men have subsequently conceded 10 in 10.

Goalscoring remains a problem but they certainly appear to be offering more threat of late. Marouane Chamakh has come to life, while Jason Puncheon has rediscovered form that made him a bright spark in Southampton's side and, before that, at Blackpool.

Puncheon actually has two goals in his last four games - and also missed a penalty at Spurs in that time. Pulis backed his man after that miss so there's every chance he'll still be on spot-kick duty here which makes bet365's 14/1 first goalscorer price tempting.

However, I'm happy to simply back Palace given their price.

They only tweaked their side in the last round and Pulis, who took Stoke to the final of this competition in 2011, is likely to do the same here. With players such as Barry Bannan on the bench at present, they won't be weakened too much at the DW.

Admittedly the hosts have also picked up under new management, with Uwe Rosler now at the helm and the Latics suffered only their first defeat in nine games last weekend.

It was a poor one though - 3-0 at Doncaster - and another way to look at their form is that they've managed to win just two of their last seven.

They will also tweak their line-up without making wholesale changes but they will miss their better players more, especially given the increased level of their opponents. Nick Powell didn't start in either of their third-round matches against MK Dons, a tie they scraped through after extra time in the replay.

The gap between 16th in the Premier League and 11th in the Championship is a fairly big one these days and I'm happy to side with the visitors to add to recent away wins at Aston Villa and West Brom.

Another bet worth considering is under 2.5 goals, which can be backed at 4/5. In the 11 games Pulis has taken charge of, only two have featured three or more goals with both Manchester City and Spurs failing to put them to the sword.

The other team to catch my eye on the FA Cup coupon is Birmingham, who look worth backing against Swansea at St Andrews.

The Swans have now won just three games in 19 and must now visit a ground where they lost 3-1 in the League Cup earlier in the season.

My critics will point out they won at Old Trafford in the last round but first of all that achievement is not what it once was and, secondly, their long-term form suggests that was very much the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, they will have more quality in their team than Birmingham but their possession football has lacked a cutting edge for a while now and off-field problems this week will hardly have helped their cause.

It's never a good sign when a club spokesman has to say "the club can categorically state that nobody was threatened with a brick" in relation to a training-ground bust-up, while there have been further rumours suggesting Michael Laudrup's future lies away from the Liberty Stadium.

Throw in the fact that Swansea face a relegation 'six-pointer' against Fulham on Tuesday and they simply have to be opposed at the prices.

Birmingham, beaten just twice in 13 games, were another side who didn't make wholesale changes for their third-round tie, although one addition to their line-up this weekend could be Manchester City youngster Albert Rusnak, who has been kicking his heels in the bottomless squad at the Etihad.

The Blues are 3/1 for the victory although to back that you would need to be very confident given their scruffy home form which has brought just two league wins.

However, rather than losing often, the fact is they've drawn too many games at St Andrews - six - and for that reason I'm going to head to the double-chance market in which the hosts can be supported at 4/5 which seems more than fair.

For the evening televised clash between Stevenage and Everton, I'd tread carefully.

The Toffees are sure to make it onto plenty of accas but they are nursing a big injury list at the moment and also have a massive Merseyside derby looming on Tuesday. They look sure to make a few changes.

Of course, they should still have too much quality to see off a side rock-bottom of League One but, to me, the prices don't appeal.

If you want a bet on this game, Bryan Oviedo to score at any time at 6/1 looks a decent price.

The Costa Rican, who netted twice in his starts before Christmas, looks certain to play and appears most likely to line up in an attacking midfield role.

Even if he fills in for Leighton Baines again at left-back, he'll have plenty of licence to get forward.

Everton smacked five past Cheltenham on the road in the FA Cup last season and if they steer clear of problems, then they could bag a few in this one.

Moving on and Ben Coley adds, Andy tipped Liverpool in his FA Cup outright preview and will doubtless have been pretty pleased to see them drawn at Bournemouth.

The Cherries have done brilliantly for Eddie Howe but their focus will be on Championship survival and not a competition which once saw them defeat Manchester United when massive underdogs.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Clearly, when a side of the magnitude of Liverpool come to town they attract your attention and I certainly wouldn't argue that Bournemouth won't be up for this. It seems certain that they will be.

However, it's hard to imagine them containing a Liverpool side who can boast the Premier League's most prolific attacking force away from home and Liverpool look banker material.

Brendan Rodgers has only this and the league to focus on - unlike some of his rivals - and to that end it was a surprise to see Luis Suarez left on the bench for their third-round clash with Oldham. The Uruguayan was brought on in the second half as Liverpool struggled to create opportunities, and I find it hard to imagine him again beginning this game from the subs' bench even with Tuesday's Merseyside derby looming.

Suarez has been at his most dangerous at Anfield but still has seven goals to his name on the road, and if he does get the nod then it could pay to back him to score two or more. He's done so in eight of his 18 starts this season which immediately makes 2/1 look generous, and that's before considering the strength of the opposition.

However, we're not blessed with the line-ups at this stage so the advice has to be to wait for that information. Similarly, doubts over whether he'll start this game lead us away from speculating as to Liverpool's total goals haul - odds-against about three or more would look fair given a full-strength side.

Instead, I make the day's best bet Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday to draw.

Wednesday have found form of late and are now unbeaten in seven since a shocking first-half display saw Bournemouth beat them at Hillsborough a month ago.

Evidence of their progress came last weekend when they drew 1-1 at high-flying Burnley - who are unbeaten all season at Turf Moor - and one would expect them to come through this tie eventually.

However, Wednesday have only won once away from home in the Championship compared to eight draws, and they were forced to settle for a replay from a trip to Macclesfield in round three.

I can envisage a similar scenario here as League Two outfit Rochdale are also in cracking form and will be hard to beat. Spotland has been a fortress all season as Leeds found out to their peril in the third round, and Keith Hill's side offer a definite threat to Wednesday who will be wary as a result.

Stuart Gray has his side performing really well at the moment so they should cope with the threat, but ultimately this is one of those rare occasions where the most likely outcome on paper - a draw - isn't priced that way.

Despite their perilous league position, Sunderland will go into many an accumulator this weekend and they should be too strong for Skrill Premier side Kidderminster.

They had a 120-minute workout at Old Trafford on Wednesday but given that it ended in a specular penalty shootout success, you'd have to think they'll find recovering easy enough and can keep their hopes of an unlikely cup double alive by reaching the fifth round.

However, Gus Poyet's side remain vulnerable at the back and the fact that Carlisle managed to find the net at the Stadium Of Light in round three offers hope of an upset. Carlisle are the second-lowest scorers away from home in League One yet had several chances against Sunderland and took one of them.

So, while I wouldn't be quite prepared to chance the Conference outfit progressing, I am interested in the 5/1 quoted about Michael Gash finding the net.

Gash was named the Budweiser player of the round for round two thanks to a brace against Newport, and he added another to his personal tally when Harriers beat Peterborough in round three.

Since then Gash continued his fine form with a goal against Dartford and it may be no coincidence that he's really stepping it up a gear after Joe Lolley departed for Huddersfield.

Clearly, he's a player thriving in his current role and with Sunderland so susceptible at the back, 5/1 about him finding the net at any time looks worth a small play.

  • Posted at 1615 GMT on 23/01/2014.