Saturday FA Cup 3pm Kick-Offs: Weak Premier League sides set to pay the price

Boro boss Tony Pulis is taking the FA Cup seriously, he says
Boro boss Tony Pulis is taking the FA Cup seriously, he says

Mike Norman has highlighted three Premier League clubs unlikely to be taking Saturday's FA Cup fourth round ties too seriously, and is therefore opposing them with sides from the Championship, League One, and League Two respectively...

"Prior to the third round Pulis spoke about taking this competition seriously and his starting XI reflected that, so I expect another strong line-up on Saturday which should result in a home win against a weakened Brighton side."

Back Middlesbrough @ [2.3] to beat Brighton

The early rounds of the FA Cup are becoming increasingly difficult to predict, with managers regularly changing their line-ups as they put more emphasis on league action, trying to win promotion or avoid relegation or whatever it may be.

A bit like international friendlies, having to put up a wager days in advance of kick-off without knowing the starting XIs isn't ideal, but it can certainly reap rewards if a team lines up how you expect and the odds start to turn in your favour.

I'm opposing three Premier League clubs in this column, but I have to admit that there isn't much juice in the prices of the teams I'm oppsing them with, quite possibly because the layers and traders are thinking exactly like myself and that the 'big boys' could be fielding fringe line-ups. If that turns out to be the case though, then I'll become a lot more confident in the three wagers I'm recommending.

Middlesbrough [2.3] v Brighton [3.75]; The Draw [3.3]

First up is probably my strongest hunch, that Middlesbrough will line up strong and that Brighton will be much-changed. If that's the case then there isn't really much to split these two sides in terms of ability, so with Boro having home advantage then they fully deserve to be favourites to win.

The Seagulls have slipped to 16th in the Premier League table, just one point above the drop zone, thanks to a run of one win in their last 13 league matches. Away from home Chris Hughton's men have failed to score a single goal in any of their last six outings.

The key however is the fact that Hughton made loads of changes for the third round 'derby' tie against Crystal Palace, and with his side now deep in relegation trouble then I fully expect him to make wholesale changes again.

Middlesbrough aren't exactly in blistering form but they appear to be getting their season back on track under new boss Tony Pulis. They've won five of their last seven in all competitions and having conceded just two goals in their last five games at the Riverside, their defence - which has included much the same personnel for a few seasons now - seems to be hitting top form.

Prior to the third round Pulis spoke about taking this competition seriously and his starting XI reflected that, so I expect another strong line-up on Saturday which should result in a home win against a weakened Brighton side.

Recommended Bet
Back Middlesbrough @ [2.3] to beat Brighton (best bet)

Notts County [4.6] v Swansea [1.95]; The Draw [3.6]

Up until a fortnight ago Notts County had gone the season without losing a single league game at Meadow Lane, but the League Two outfit have now lost back-to-back games in front of their own fans, perhaps because their players had one eye on this fourth round tie against Premier League outfit Swansea.

This has all the hallmarks of being a really tight game, but as you usually do in these type of match-ups, you get the sense that the lower league outfit will have far more incentive to win than their higher profile rivals.

County boss Kevin Nolan has plenty of experience in this competition and you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll name his strongest team possible with an eye on a cup upset.

Swansea remain rock bottom of the Premier League despite recording a fantastic home win over Liverpool on Monday night, but you get the feeling there'll be a bit of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' on Saturday afternoon with boss Carlos Carvalhal possible resting his strongest XI in preparation for the far-more-important home game against Arsenal on Tuesday night.

Notts County went to decent Championship outfit Brentford in round three and dumped them out of the cup, and Swansea arguably aren't that much better than the Bees currently. Nolan's men have an excellent chance of producing one of the shocks of the day.

Recommended Bet
Back Notts County @ [4.6] to beat Swansea

Wigan [2.62] v West Ham [3.1]; The Draw [3.4]

At first glance you might think it's barmy that a League One team are trading as favourites to beat a mid-table Premier League outfit, but on reflection that odds are about right and Wigan might even be a tad shorter come kick-off.

The reason for that of course is West Ham's huge injury list, and the likelihood of David Moyes making wholesale changes ahead of Tuesday's Premier League London derby against Crystal Palace.

And you also have to take into consideration that Wigan are no mid-table League One side, they are clear at the top of the table, unbeaten in 14 matches, have kept six clean sheets in seven games at the DW Stadium, and in the previous round they easily got the better of Premier League outfit Bournemouth 3-0 in a replay.

Moyes made plenty of changes to his team away to Shrewsbury three weeks ago but could manage just a goalless draw before needing extra-time to get the better of the League One side in a replay, and with injuries to the likes of Andy Carroll, Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini, Andre Ayew, Michail Antonio, and Diafra Sakho, you just wonder how the Hammers will line-up in attack.

And then there's the injuries to Winston Reid, Jose Fonte, Aaron Cresswell, and Edimilson Fernandex to consider in defence and midfield. Players who would all be strong contenders to start in a full strength team.

Put simply, Wigan won't get a better chance than this to put one over a mid-table Premier League side.

Recommended Bet
Back Wigan @ [2.62] to beat West Ham


*You can follow me on Twitter - @MikkyMo73

Mike Norman,

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