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Middlesbrough can take Premier League scalp in FA Cup

Brighton may be below par

Ryan Shotton (left) of Middlesbrough challenges Sunderland's George Honeyman
1 of 1

FA Cup & English Football League
3pm Saturday

Middlesbrough v Brighton
Six of the seven FA Cup third-round ties between Premier League and Sky Bet Championship sides were won by the team from the higher division, but that trend could be bucked on Teesside as Middlesbrough have a great chance of defeating Brighton at the Riverside.

Many Premier League squads are so strong that managers can get away with rotating the side and still be pretty confident of beating a lower-league opponent.

However, Brighton, who have been scouring the transfer market for January reinforcements, are not blessed with an abundance of high-quality fringe players and could pay the price if, as seems likely, Chris Hughton decides to ring the changes.

Hughton made eight changes for the third round clash at home to Crystal Palace and watched his side triumph 2-1.

But Brighton's success that evening was heavily influenced by the weakness of injury-hit Palace, who were also selecting a team with future Premier League matches in mind.

Hughton is likely to rely on largely the same group of players but the Seagulls could have a tougher time against Middlesbrough, who have responded well to the recent introduction of Tony Pulis as manager.

Boro have won three of their last four games and showed the defensive steel of a typical Pulis side when winning 3-0 at QPR last Saturday.

They have an important league game at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday but Pulis has said he will not make wholesale changes and can lead his team into the fifth round at the first attempt.

Recommendation
Middlesbrough
2pts 13-10 general

Bet on this match at soccerbase.com

Premier League standings

Sky Bet Championship standings

Sheffield Utd v Preston
The FA Cup is not the top priority for Sky Bet Championship promotion-chasers Sheffield United and Preston so punters should expect fringe players to be handed their chance at Bramall Lane.

It could boil down to who has the stronger squad and a tight match could go the way of Preston, who have been hard to beat this season, losing seven of 30 games.

Three weeks ago North End boss Alex Neil made six changes for what looked like a tricky third-round tie at Wycombe and watched his team romp to a hugely impressive 5-1 win.

United manager Chris Wilder made eight changes for his team's match at Ipswich (who also rested key players) and watched the Blades triumph 1-0.

However, it was a less fluid performance than the one Preston produced at Wycombe and raised doubts about how much further they can go in the competition.

Recommendation
Preston draw no bet
2pts 6-4 Betfair, Power

Bet on this match at soccerbase.com

Sky Bet Championship standings


Blackpool v Charlton
Charlton are on a three-match winning sequence, sit just outside the Sky Bet League One playoff places, and look a great bet to topple struggling Blackpool.

Blackpool go into the match as favourites despite trailing the Addicks by 13 points in the table.

And home advantage may not make much of a difference for the Seasiders, who have not won a league match at Bloomfield Road since mid-October.

Blackpool have won just one of their last 12 league games and failed to put up much resistance when losing 2-0 at fellow strugglers AFC Wimbledon last Saturday.

Charlton were 3-1 winners at home to Walsall on the same day and have added to their squad this week with the loan acquisition of Polish attacker Michal Zyro from Wolves.

Ambitious Addicks manager Karl Robinson has talked about pushing for a top-two finish and a victory over Blackpool could keep those ambitions alive.

Recommendation
Charlton
2pts 21-10 bet365, Hills

Bet on this match at soccerbase.com

Sky Bet League One standings

Carlisle v Forest Green
Forest Green have looked a different team since a January recruitment drive and can deny odds-on favourites Carlisle a victory at Brunton Park.

Rovers have the joint-second worst defensive record in Sky Bet League Two (50 goals conceded) but are no longer a soft touch at the back since signing centre-backs Haydn Hollis and Gavin Gunning from Notts County and Port Vale.

And they are a threat up front with 14-goal top scorer Christian Doidge getting support from new signing Rueben Reid, a proven goalscorer in the fourth tier.

Mid-table Carlisle are a competitive League Two side and still harbour hopes of pushing towards the playoffs but, at such short odds, they are worth opposing.

Recommendation
Forest Green or draw double chance
2pts 21-20 bet365

Bet on this match at soccerbase.com

Sky Bet League Two standings


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Boro have won three of their last four games and showed defensive steel
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