Arsenal wary as Southampton eye another cup shock after beating Liverpool
Saints stun Juergen Klopp’s side to reach League Cup final at Wembley and put Arsene Wenger’s side out of the same competition earlier this season
There are only two all-Premier League clashes in this weekend’s FA Cup fourth round in England and one of them brings some peril for Arsenal away to Southampton, who have already put them out of the League Cup this season.
On that occasion Southampton triumphed 2-0 away to the Gunners, although the home side were missing big stars including Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott.
The League Cup is not often a good form guide but Southampton have proved themselves a good cup side by reaching the final of the League Cup with their midweek victory over Liverpool in the last four.
Even on the league form between the sides, Arsenal will not be expecting an easy match as they needed a stoppage-time penalty to win 2-1 at home back in September and that was at a time when Claude Puel was still looking for a first win as Saints boss.
Southampton have not quite maintained last season’s high level under Ronald Koeman but their results have been solid enough considering their heavy schedule, which also included a Europa League campaign.
It is notable that Southampton are unbeaten in four home matches against Arsenal since their return to the Premier League in 2012, with two wins and two draws, and they look worth chancing on the handicap in tomorrow night’s late game.
The other all-Premier tie is Crystal Palace v Manchester City, which could provide an upset but probably not, especially if City get anywhere near the heights of their third-round 5-0 away win at West Ham.
Including cup ties, City have won 12 and lost just one of their 15 matches this season against teams below the Premier League top eight.
Elsewhere, the romance of the FA Cup is flourishing with non-league Lincoln and Sutton having made it to the last 32. Lincoln are the best non-league side and their home tie against Brighton could be a cracker – the top team in the Championship away to the leaders of the National League, three tiers below them.
Brighton are solid and still underrated but Lincoln are much better than their non-league status suggests and an upset cannot be ruled out.
Millwall ousted a Premier League team in the third round with a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth and the League One side could repeat the trick at home to Watford. The visitors have been struggling for form in recent weeks and Millwall have to be considered on the handicap.
Derby, who also put out a Premier League team with a 2-1 third-round victory at West Brom, have another good chance at home to Leicester.
The hosts have had seven wins and two draws from nine home matches under Steve McClaren, while Leicester are the only team yet to win away in the Premier League (although they did win at Everton in the third round). Derby have a decent shot on the handicap.
Fulham are another tough team to visit at the moment (only one defeat in eight) and they could take advantage if, as expected, Hull boss Marco Silva puts out an under-strength side on Sunday.
The Premier League has a full midweek programme on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and the standout match is Liverpool v Chelsea (fourth v first).
The most feasible way for Chelsea to end up losing the title is to have a string of bad results in these big matches against their rivals, with Tuesday night’s visit to Anfield being the first of four remaining games against the other members of the big six.
Chelsea have a mixed record in their half-dozen big-six clashes so far (three wins, three defeats) but only one of the losses came since their switch to a back three, in response to going 3-0 down before half-time at Arsenal in late September.
Liverpool are the only unbeaten team in the mini-league of the big six, with three wins and three draws from their six games. Their three league defeats this season have all been against teams outside the top 11, and how costly those lost points might prove to be.
With home advantage and a proven capacity to raise themselves for the big matches, Liverpool are the handicap pick on Tuesday night.
The best bet on the Premier League programme looks to be Everton on the handicap away to Stoke. Ronald Koeman’s side have hit better form with five wins and just one defeat in their last seven league matches, while Stoke have yet to beat a team from outside the bottom eight.
Preston, Schalke, Leverkusen, Celta Vigo.
Derby on handicap
Can add Leicester to their cup victims
Everton on handicap
Top midweek bet at Stoke
Liverpool on handicap
The pick in Tuesday’s big match
Aston Villa home win
Solid record under Steve Bruce
Roma away win
Banker bet in Serie A
Wins in 15 away games for Leicester this season