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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Midweek Football Picks 2018 (January 16-17)

This midweek is reserved for any FA Cup Third Round Replays that have to take place and that does mean the majority of Premier League clubs have the chance to get a bit of rest at the end of a very busy period of their seasons.

Not all of the top clubs have a chance to rest though with a number involved in the FA Cup Replays this week and once again you have to take team selections into consideration. Most of the managers will want to remain in the FA Cup, but the Premier League is the priority and so you have to accept that there will be changes made to the starting elevens.

How many starters are rested is much more difficult to predict, but hopefully I have a better time guessing that and making predictions than I did ten days ago.

Leicester City v Fleetwood Town Pick: There is little concern that Leicester City will be dragged back towards a relegation battle and their best likely finish in the Premier League table is 7th. That should mean Claude Puel is going to keep the fans and the owners happy by having a real shot at taking Leicester City to FA Cup success and they have been given an opportunity to reach the Fifth Round.

If Leicester City can win this Replay, they will play Peterborough United from League One in the Fourth Round and once you get to the Fifth Round they could be the team taking this competition the most seriously. While others will be back in Champions League action around then, Leicester City can play strong teams knowing this competition is the priority and I can imagine Leicester City have their backers for Cup success.

However getting past Fleetwood Town won’t be easy and Leicester City have to take this fixture seriously. They are home having drawn 0-0 at Highbury Stadium ten days ago, but Leicester City should know how tough Fleetwood Town could be.

Fleetwood Town have also thrived away from home in recent weeks with both FA Cup successes coming on their travels. The Cod Army have also conquered the last 5 teams they have played away from home in all competitions and have scored at least twice in each of those games.

That should mean a confident team arrives at the King Power Stadium, but I also think a stronger Leicester City will take to the field. Jamie Vardy should be involved against his former club who helped him achieve his move to Leicester City and I can see him making the difference along with Riyad Mahrez.

Even some changes won’t be a big problem for Leicester City who should be too strong for Fleetwood Town. I can imagine they are also able to pick off their visitors if Fleetwood Town begin to chase an equaliser and so I will back Leicester City to cover the Asian Handicap in this Replay.

West Ham United v Shrewsbury Town Pick: The FA Cup is seen as a distraction for many clubs these days, especially those in the Premier League who are either fighting for major honours or trying to avoid relegation. That is not necessarily the case for David Moyes and West Ham United who won't mind building on recent successful results with a Cup run, even if it is clear that the Premier League remains the priority at this moment in time.

Under Sam Allardyce and Slaven Bilic West Ham United enjoyed a couple of really good runs in the FA Cup including a Quarter Final in 2016 and Moyes can get the supporters firmly behind him by getting a run going this year.

He might have more reason for optimism with West Ham United producing positive results in the Premier League which is moving them up the League table, but changes will be made on Tuesday with the Bournemouth game in mind. There is still some talent in the West Ham United starting eleven with injuries making it hard to make wholesale changes, but those on the field also have to make sure they have a full respect for Shrewsbury Town.

The initial tie will have shown West Ham United that their opponents can make life difficult for them and Shrewsbury Town are playing well enough in League One to have a confidence in their own ability. The 3-1 loss at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday did snap a 10 game unbeaten run in all competitions, and I do wonder if that will have had an effect on the players belief, while the competition faced on Tuesday is considerably higher than Shrewsbury Town are used to playing.

I do feel their best chance of the upset has been missed at home and West Ham United should have too much for them here. It could be tight for a while, but West Ham United may just use their superior fitness to edge ahead and then put the finishing touches on this fixture late on as Shrewsbury Town chase a way to get back into it.

Chelsea v Norwich City PickIt has been a tough start to the 2018 calendar year as Chelsea's squad have struggled with all of the demands being placed on them. However that can't be fully blamed for the 4 consecutive draws and 3 consecutive goalless draws they have had as Antonio Conte has managed plenty of rotation, but there has been a knock in the confidence of the players.

Usually you would imagine this is the kind of game that could help spark Chelsea, and I think they just need to find a win by any means necessary. There will be some changes made to the side when you think of the big fixtures coming up in the Premier League and League Cup Semi Final Second Leg, but Antonio Conte won't use that as an excuse as he looks for more silverware to add to the League title he helped Chelsea win last season.

With the rumours that Conte will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season in full flow, the manager can only quieten those voices with successes on the field. Going out of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge just won't do and I do think Chelsea will find a way to win this one.

For all the negatives, Chelsea have continued to defend well enough and that should give them a chance to turn things around on the field. The clean sheets have been arriving consistently at home and I think they can use that in a winning effort in this one even with a few changes.

There wasn't a lot of threat from Norwich City in the initial tie at Carrow Road and the loss of Alex Pritchard won't help to make them stronger in the final third. The Canaries can be tough though and I do think they have the potential to frustrate Chelsea, but I will expect the extra quality the home team can call upon to help them past this opponent.

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if Antonio Conte picks a slightly stronger team than the one that began at Carrow Road, especially in the forward areas, and I will back Chelsea to win with a clean sheet.

Swansea City v Wolves Pick: Both managers sound like there will be some changes made to their starting eleven and that makes this a difficult Replay to try and figure out.

Neither team has been in very strong form of late, but Wolves are a tough team to beat and I like their chances as the underdog to come through this tie.

To be fair I thought they would win the initial tie at Molineux, but a first half sending off made that difficult and Wolves may have missed their best chance to go through. However they have been to the Etihad Stadium and held a strong Manchester City team in the League Cup and I just don't think Swansea City's starting eleven will be to that level.

I would be more excited about Wolves' chances if they were going to play their first team, but I still think they warrant a small interest to make it through to the next Round. This match should mean more to the runaway leaders of the Championship than it does to the Premier League strugglers and I think that may be the mindset on the evening.

Wolves have proven to be a tough to break down and I think they may nick this one on the evening and are worth a small interest as the underdog.

Wigan Athletic v Bournemouth Pick: It is funny to see the Premier League side as a significant underdog at the home of the League One leaders, but that may be much down to the fact that Bournemouth will be resting and rotating a number of players.

However Wigan Athletic are also expected to make some changes as they have stumbled a little bit in the League One promotion battle and so I am surprised Bournemouth are still an outsider.

They have seen at first hand that Wigan Athletic could be a very dangerous opponent having come from 0-2 down to earn a Replay. Wigan Athletic are also better at home where they are a little more defensively sound, although there has to be some concern that they have just had some difficulties in front of goal in their recent fixtures at The DW Stadium.

I expected goals when these teams met in the initial tie, but this time I can imagine the match may be a lot tighter. That could also be down to the changed starting line ups which may need a little time to build their chemistry and make the right attacking plays to break the other down.

Both managers are speaking about wanting to progress and so I expect two teams to battle hard for their Fourth Round spot against West Ham United. However I think the Premier League quality may just shine through as Wigan Athletic missed a big chance to earn the upset in the initial tie and that may be something they end up ruing.

Changes to the Bournemouth team means I do have some reduced enthusiasm for the price, but they are still worth a small interest to win this tie.

MY PICKS: Leicester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
West Ham United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.07 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Wolves @ 3.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Bournemouth @ 3.20 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

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