Swans to silence Gunners
Our Andy Schooler previews Sunday's two FA Cup third-round ties.
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Since being dumped out of the Capital One Cup by League Two Bradford, Arsenal have responded well, winning 10 points from a possible 12 over the festive period. However, the match they didn't win in that run is particularly noteworthy with this clash in mind. They looked pretty one-dimensional at Southampton on New Year's Day and couldn't argue with the result. It added to a list of poor results away from home this season - the Gunners have also drawn at Aston Villa and lost to Norwich this term. With this arguably Arsenal's last shot at silverware this season, the pressure is on but odds of 5/4 certainly don't appeal, especially with plenty of doubt surrounding who will actually play. Swansea, also unbeaten over Christmas and New Year, have lost just two of their 11 home league games this season and even if Michael Laudrup opts to make changes, the stand-ins have shown they are still capable of gaining positive results - remember the Swans are through to next week's Capital One Cup semi-finals. Danny Graham showed his ability over Christmas when standing in for Michu and he's now reportedly got the carrot of a move to play for. Kemy Agustien and Dwight Tiendalli have also caught the eye when given a chance to shine. Given the prices (Swansea are just under 5/2 for the win) backing the hosts looks the way to go. Remember they won this fixture in the league last season, while only last month they won 2-0 at the Emirates. You may want to wait until the teams are known but given I don't have that luxury when writing this, a play to minimum stakes is the recommendation.
Verdict: Swansea 2 Arsenal 1
Forty years on, a certain Ronnie Radford may be popping up on your screens this weekend. Ditto Matthew Hanlon - the scorer of the goal that secured victory for the last non-league team (Sutton United) to topple a top-flight outfit (Coventry) in the FA Cup. There will be talk of potential banana skins here but of more concern to Brendan Rodgers and co will likely be the pitch at Field Mill which given its current state may well draw more comparisons with Radford and Hereford back in 1972. It certainly has the potential to reduce the gulf in class between the Conference side and the Premier League giants and there may be a bit of value in siding with Draw-Liverpool in the HT-FT market. Mansfield go into this full of confidence with just one defeat in their last 12, while they have conceded just 11 goals in 12 home league games so a strong start would no be a huge surprise. However, the Stags' fitness levels seem likely to be tested by the heavy nature of the playing surface giving some appeal to the 4/1 offered. However, it's not a bet I'm prepared to fully recommend. For those thinking the conditions won't matter a jot and Liverpool will ease to victory, the 10/11 about new boy Daniel Sturridge scoring at any time is worth considering. The England striker has made a habit of scoring in this competition - he has netted eight times in 11 FA Cup ties in his career - while the last time he left Stamford Bridge (for Bolton on loan in 2011) he scored in his first four games. Likely to play through the middle and with Luis Suarez due a rest, the price looks a tempting one.
Verdict: Mansfield 0 Liverpool 2