Weblog: The football punter

Leicester could have to work hard to avoid upset

Third round
BBC1, 4.30pm Sunday

Leicester produced the greatest underdog performance in the history of British football to win the 2015-16 Premier League but the Foxes' FA Cup opponents Newport County have pulled off some remarkable feats of their own in recent seasons.

Manager Michael Flynn took charge in March 2017 with the Exiles 11 points adrift at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two but they stayed up thanks to an 89th-minute winner on the final day of the season.

The inspirational Flynn steered Newport to a top-half finish last season and they charged out of the blocks this term, winning seven of their first ten league games.

The Welsh club have hit a flat spot with four defeats in their last five games but they remain in the hunt for a playoff place and Leicester's trip to Rodney Parade is no third-round bye.

In last season's competition, Newport claimed home wins over League One Walsall in round one, League Two Cambridge in the second round, and Leeds of the Championship in round three.

That set up another cracking cup tie at Rodney Parade against Premier League Tottenham, who named a strong starting 11 yet needed an 82nd-minute goal from Harry Kane to earn a 1-1 draw.

Spurs won the replay 2-0 but their awkward experience in the original tie should dispel any complacency from Leicester.

The Premier League side are expected to prevail at the first time of asking but they are more suited by the role of underdogs, as they demonstrated when beating Chelsea and Manchester City in the space of five days either side of Christmas.

They had already drawn with champions City in the League Cup quarter-finals, going out on penalties, and claimed another impressive scalp when beating Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park last time out.

Claude Puel was criticised for resting players for the League Cup clash with the Citizens but he is likely to leave out some first-team regulars again with top scorer Jamie Vardy set for a rest.

Puel's men let down their backers at short prices when losing to Cardiff in their last home league game and needed a replay to get past League One Fleetwood at this stage of last season's FA Cup.

The Foxes, missing the injured Vardy, didn't manage a shot on target in the goalless draw at Highbury and a rout of Newport looks unlikely despite the gulf in class between the teams.

Flynn's men showed against Spurs last season that they won't be overwhelmed by the occasion and they can keep the scoreline respectable.

Leicester to win & under 3.5 goals

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Match in Focus


West Ham v Fulham

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Fulham have conceded 12 goals in their last five aways.
Expert verdict
Victories over Arsenal and Manchester United allied to draws against Chelsea and Liverpool show West Ham are at their happiest on home soil and they should outclass relegation-threatened Fulham. The Cottagers have picked up just two points from their 13 away games and look set to struggle.