The magic of the FA Cup third round begins with Newcastle travelling over two hours south to take on Rochdale. Here’s our preview of the encounter at the Crown Oil Arena.

Rochdale pretty but not effective

Rookie manager Brian Barry-Murphy has earned plenty of plaudits for the brand of football he has ingrained into his Rochdale players. However, their ‘tiki-taka’ style of play hasn’t generated the results it perhaps has deserved, with the Dale currently 18th in League One – just four points above the relegation zone.

They didn’t enjoy a particularly fruitful festive period either, with three consecutive defeats to Burton Albion, Fleetwood and Gillingham, though they did get the better of Accrington Stanley on New Year’s Day on their most recent outing.

Murphy’s side are no strangers to the big stage having taken Manchester United all the way to penalties in this season’s Carabao Cup and they are 7/2 to beat Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime.

Not a very happy Christmas for Newcastle

Like their hosts, there wasn’t an awful lot of Christmas cheer for Newcastle. Having beaten Crystal Palace on December 21, they’ve lost three in a row, with the most recent of those being a 3-0 home loss to Leicester. It’s not often that a 3-0 loss is the least of your worries, but in this instance it probably was. Steve Bruce couldn’t have believed his eyes to see four of his players go down injured in the space of just 20 minutes and Newcastle’s squad looks more threadbare than ever.

With the likes of Jetro Willems, Jonjo Shelvey, Fabian Schar and Javier Manquillo out and DeAndre Yedlin rumoured to have suffered a broken hand, this is a fixture Bruce could have really done without. His side are 3/4 for victory, with the draw an 11/4 chance.

Hosts chanced at attractive odds

For those backing Newcastle here, you have the comfort of knowing that Rochdale have won just once in 16 FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents. In contrast, however, Newcastle have only won one of their last 16 FA Cup matches away from home. That second stat combined with their lengthy injury list means they look short enough at 3/4 and a chance should be taken on their hosts causing a cup-set.

They showed they aren’t afraid of mixing it with the big boys in that Carabao Cup game with United and, given Newcastle’s focus will surely be on the Premier League, the 9/4 draw no bet on Rochdale looks worth taking.

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