Weblog: The football punter

Benteke and Batshuayi may get time to impress

Crystal Palace can be kings of the castle at the Keepmoat Stadium by beating Doncaster and progressing to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

It's unlikely to be a stroll for Premier League Palace against a side aiming for promotion from Sky Bet League One, but the top-flight outfit have a free midweek, so they should be relatively strong and manager Roy Hodgson has insisted he won't make wholesale changes.

Palace are only three points above the relegation zone despite being 13th in the table, so don't expect a full-strength side, although Hodgson rotated his squad in the fourth round and the Eagles rose to the challenge with a 2-0 home win over Tottenham.

That success over Spurs started a four-match unbeaten run and Palace really should have beaten West Ham last time out but poor finishing let them down in a 1-1 draw.

The chances should keep coming against lower-league opponents and, while Wilfried Zaha is suspended, Christian Benteke or Michy Batshuayi should be able to take them having been dropped in grade.

Doncaster are in the League One playoff places and carry a forward threat with 58 goals scored this season, although perhaps more importantly for this clash, Rovers have also shipped 39 times.

Grant McCann sets them up to attack - they banged in ten shots on target and hit the woodwork twice in Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Southend - and Rovers have scored in 19 of their last 20 matches.

John Marquis is a threat as the central striker in a positive 4-3-3 formation and Liverpool loanee Herbie Kane appears back to his best after a slow spell having caught the eye earlier in the season.

Donny are also unbeaten at home since a 1-0 loss to Sunderland on October 23 and have made their mark already in this competition, upsetting Championship side Preston in the third round.

However, North End were decimated by injuries and Doncaster got lucky in terms of the fourth-round draw with a home date against League Two Oldham, progressing with a controversial last-gasp Ben Whiteman penalty.

This is a trip into the unknown for McCann's men against Premier League opponents, but they have struggled when facing the better teams in League One this season.

A win over slow-starters Luton in September is Doncaster's only success in the league against their fellow top-six outfits and they have scored only four goals in six matches against the Hatters, Barnsley, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Charlton.

If Palace can keep Doncaster's forwards in check the outsiders are unlikely to be strong enough defensively to cause an upset.

Crystal Palace

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Match in Focus


Lazio v Bologna

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Lazio have won four of their last five matches in all competitions
Expert verdict
Lazio won the Coppa Italia last Wednesday after two late goals helped them see off Atalanta in the final and they can win their final league match at home comfortably. Bologna have virtually pulled clear of danger with three wins in their previous four games but they all came at home and their record on the road leaves a lot to be desired. They have won only two of their 18 away league fixtures and lost the reverse 2-1 in October.