Villa’s big guns to shoot down Palace
Crystal Palace surprised us all when they knocked Wolves out of the cup in the 4th round but I feel Aston Villa should have more than enough to ensure there isn't another shock in store at Selhurst Park this Sunday.
If this match would've taken place in the 3rd round then Palace would've had every chance of causing an upset, but with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal all out of the cup already you can be sure that Martin O'Neill will be taking this competition very seriously and will be wanting another trip to Wembley to go with the visit they'll be making at the end of the month for the Carling Cup final.
In fact, the United game aside, Villa's run of fixture's coming up look very winnable, with Burnley and Sunderland to play at Villa Park before trips to Stoke and Wigan in the first couple of weeks of March, surely O'Neill can afford to play a full strength team in South London?
Two areas of his team might be decided for him with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stiliyan Petrov both struggling to shake off their respective injuries, Nathan Delfouneso (11/2 to score the first of the game, 6/4 to bag one at anytime of the 90 minutes), who's opened the scoring in both of Villa's FA Cup games this season, and Fabian Delph (14/1 first, 11/2 any) the likely replacements should they not make it.
Neil Warnock too has some dilemmas to contend with, particularly at the back, with Lee Hills cup-tied after he played in the 1st round during his loan spell with Oldham Athletic, Paddy McCarthy is still troubled with shoulder injuries and Jose Fonte has moved onto pastures new to get some much needed cash. Matt Lawrence and Claude Davis both missed the midweek defeat to Swansea but should shake off their injuries in time to face the Premier League side.
Defence is absolutely key for Palace in this game, because while Villa don't score loads of goals, if they come up against an inexperienced back-line with their pace and slick passing they could run amok at Selhurst.
The Eagles are likely to operate in a 4-5-1 formation, and Shaun Derry will have to be at his best in the middle of the park to try break up the wave of Villa attacks that are sure to come at the Londoners.
The magic of the cup is sure to see people tempted in to Palace at odds of 7/2, and perhaps they're fairly short out of respect to their exploits in the last round, but I can't see them getting anything out of the game myself. The draw, and another cash injection that would come with it, is priced at 12/5, while Villa look fully justified in their odds of 5/6.
Looking at correct scores I'd be heading towards a 1-0 or 2-0 win to the visitors, available at 9/2 and 11/2 respectively, Villa are excellent at the back so them to keep a clean sheet at 21/20 should also be considered.
If Palace are to get anything from this game then they'll be looking towards Darren Ambrose, who is surely one of the signings of the season at any level, the former Charlton man has bagged 15 goals from midfield already this campaign is 9/1 to make it a sweet 16 with the first of the game, 10/3 just to pounce at anytime of the match.
Ashley Young has done well in the cup's this season, hitting three goals from his last five cup matches, the World Cup hopeful is a 15/2 shot to open the scoring and 9/4 to get on the scoresheet at any point of the 90 minutes.
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