Suarez and Welbeck to impress
Ben Linfoot previews Sunday's games in the FA Cup and he's backing some in-form strikers to deliver once again.
- Related Content
If there is going to be an upset in the FA Cup on Sunday, it could well come in the lunchtime kick-off when Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest take on Barclays Premier League strugglers West Ham.
Except, it wouldn't be much of an upset. Not according to the bookies anyway.
With Forest unbeaten in seven and West Ham without a win in the same number of league fixtures, the layers make the Championship side favourites and generally as short as 5/4 at that.
Consequently, West Ham are available at 23/10 and despite their injuries and poor recent results it's a price that makes some appeal.
For a start, West Ham have had an extremely tough run of fixtures. They've lost at Liverpool and Manchester United, won at Tottenham in the League Cup and met with defeat when table-toppers Arsenal visited Upton Park.
In their last two games they drew 3-3 with West Brom at home before going down 2-1 at Fulham, when having to play the whole of the second half with ten men thanks to Kevin Nolan's moment of madness.
It's not a run of form that suggests they should be outsiders against a Championship club, even accounting for possible apathy from the management with a transfer window and a relegation battle to concentrate on.
Instead this fixture represents a chance for the West Ham players to stop the rot and they will feel frustrated and perhaps hard done by after recent games.
Not only did they have to play Fulham a man down for 45 minutes, that was the third time in as many matches they had gone ahead and failed to win.
Clearly, they are starting games well and if they get their noses in front against Forest, Billy Davies' side may lack the goals to get back in the tie.
Despite their good run, Forest have averaged just a goal a game in their last six and it's concerning their manager, who underlined his intention to bring in more firepower following the 1-1 draw with Reading.
At 23/10, the Premier League club are big enough to warrant a small interest.
You won't get such a big price about fourth-placed Liverpool when they entertain Sky Bet League One side Oldham later in the afternoon at Anfield.
In fact, the Reds are 1/10 generally to exact their revenge on the Latics following last season's 3-2 defeat at Boundary Park at the same stage of the competition.
Brendan Rodgers' side have been ruthless at home this campaign, winning nine out of ten Premier League matches at Anfield and averaging three goals a game for their victories.
Luis Suarez has scored 15 in his seven home games this season, an astonishing return, and one that sees him chalked up as short as 2/11 to score anytime.
With such prohibitive odds available I expected his hat-trick price to be around the 4/1 mark, but William Hill and 888sport go 7/1 about him netting a treble and that seems fair.
Usually, 7/1 about Player X scoring a hat-trick against Team Y would be terrible value, but when you're talking about a player with the home strike-rate of Suarez against a team that sits 19th in League One, it's too tempting to ignore.
Even nursing a bruised foot he could've scored three against Hull on New Year's Day, and, with Liverpool's schedule a light one thanks to an early League Cup exit and no European football, it's very hard to envisage Rodgers resting him, especially considering the lack of reinforcements available.
All in all, while my argument is basically no more than 'Suarez scores lots and Oldham aren't very good', at 7/1 it could pay to accept such logic and I'll chance him to take the match ball home.
Finally, while I wouldn't be trusting Manchester United at 4/11 to get the job done in 90 minutes against Swansea, the 5/1 about Danny Welbeck scoring first is fair.
Swansea are a good, compact, side away from home but they haven't been creating much and while it would go against the grain of many matches at Old Trafford this season, I fancy United to break the deadock.
David Moyes' team will be hurting by their New Year's Day defeat at home to Spurs, but at least they get the chance to make amends quickly and I would expect them to come out all guns blazing.
Welbeck is key for them in this game mainly because his pace can help United get in behind Swansea.
But he's also important due to the continued absence of Robin van Persie and the niggling groin injury that Wayne Rooney is carrying.
Expect Rooney to sit deep in a playmaker role once again, with Welbeck the chief beneficiary.
The in-form striker has been finishing well, as his neat dink over Hugo Lloris exhibited, while his record of five goals in his last six games (three of them the first goal in the match) further enhances his credentials.
- The games at Manchester United and Nottingham Forest are being televised live in the UK on BT Sport and ITV respectively.