Weblog: The football punter

Brighton v Crystal Palace preview

FA Cup third round
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Monday

Crystal Palace's progress to the 2016 FA Cup final began with a 2-1 success at Southampton and the Londoners must pass another south-coast examination – at top-flight rivals Brighton – to stay in the trophy hunt in 2018.

Premier League survival is the priority for both managers – Seagulls boss Chris Hughton and Palace gaffer Roy Hodgson – who have warned supporters to expect plenty of changes to their starting line-ups.

However, Palace's run to the final two years ago was set against the backdrop of a relegation battle but their squad has since improved with key trio Mamadou Sakho (currently injured), Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke coming in and Yannick Bolasie the only star man to depart.

At their best Palace could cause problems for the biggest teams in the competition but Hodgson is understandably reluctant to throw all of his resources at the competition at a stage of the season when so many players are in need of a rest.

Plenty of Premier League managers moaned about the hectic schedule but no team had it any worse than Palace, who had to play at home to Arsenal and Manchester City and away to Southampton inside six days.

To their credit they came away with four points and finished the stronger in the second half of last Tuesday's 2-1 victory away to Southampton, despite their opponents having benefited from an extra day to prepare for the game.

Brighton wrapped up their busy Christmas schedule a day earlier but looked tired towards the end of their 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth.

The Seagulls took the lead twice but ended up hanging on as the Cherries racked up 26 shots – eight of them on target.

A week later Brighton's squad should be in a healthier state but Hughton will already be looking ahead to the weekend's league match at West Brom and is preparing to protect key players.

Brighton have never made it past the last 32 in three FA Cup campaigns under Hughton and were defeated 3-1 at Lincoln in last season's fourth round after fielding a weakened side.

After an injection of funding, Brighton's squad is a bit deeper than a year ago but Hughton's second string toiled in this season's EFL Cup, scraping a 1-0 win at home to Barnet before bowing out with a 1-0 extra-time loss at Bournemouth.

Palace went a round further in the EFL Cup and were 1-0 winners over top-flight rivals Huddersfield in the third round, at a stage of the season when they hadn't registered any points or goals in the league.

They have improved hugely over the last few months – losing once in 11 games – and look decent value to defeat Brighton at the first attempt.

Crystal Palace

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

Google +1


Match in Focus

19:45 Fr 19Oct SKY

Sheff Wed v Middlesbro

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Middlesbrough have won four of their last five meetings with Sheffield Wednesday
Expert verdict
No side has shipped fewer goals in the Championship than Middlesbrough this term and their defensive resolve can give them the edge against playoff hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday. Tony Pulis’s team have lost just once on the road this season and the Owls are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league.