IT'S FA Cup third-round weekend and one of the toughest for punters as we try to avoid the shocks.

Almost all the big teams will rotate squads and so will some of the smaller ones with league points the be-all and end-all.

Generally a weakened Premier League team will beat a weakened Championship one and so on but there will be surprises and it's all about spotting them.

If you have the luxury of seeing line-ups before having a bet then do so – and remember there are seven 12.30pm kick-offs because of TV demands overseas.

I'm starting with top teams who should win and first up it's Man United with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keen to maintain momentum with a fifth win in a row since taking over.

The Norwegian will rest his main men but has the luxury of bringing in multi-million players at home to a Reading side that should pose little or no threat.

Romelu Lukaku hasn't started any of Solskjaer's games but scored with his first touch off the bench at Newcastle in midweek.

That should earn the Belgian a place in the XI and he's well known to bully weaker teams. Take Lukaku to score first at 3-1 with Betfred.

Reading have netted just once in five games so United will fancy a rare clean sheet – United to win to nil at 8-13 at boylesports could be on accas.

United have netted 14 goals in Solskjaer's four wins so should be looking to net three or four so take United -2 at 19-20 with sportingbet.

An illustration of how difficult it is for punters today is the fact a treble on United plus Arsenal at Blackpool and Everton at home to Lincoln pays just 3-5.

Burnley have just notched back-to-back Premier League wins so if Sen Dyche takes this seriously they could be worth backing at 5-6 with bet365 at home to League One Barnsley.

In an all-Premier League tie Bournemouth could get the better of Brighton at evens with Ladbrokes. Eddie Howe's men reached the EFL Cup quarter and are in a better position to take this more seriously than their rivals.

As far as shocks go two ties stand out and even then one wouldn't be a huge one. Paul Lambert is still without a win at Ipswich who have lost eight third-round ties in a row.

He's likely to field a seriously weakened team at League One Accrington who are 13-8 at bet365.

Once again there are protests against Mike Ashley at Newcastle and as usual they'll field a weakened side against a decent Blackburn. Tony Mowbray's men are 19-4 at bet365 to win in the north east.

There are some League One and League Two matches and while Sunderland are on a good run they face a tough test at a Charlton side with the second best home record in the division. Both to score at 3-4 with Ladbrokes could be the call.

In League Two I like Carlisle at home to Mansfield as they bid to make it six wins in a row. Carlisle, who have netted 17 goals in the previous five, are big at 12-5 with bet365 as it's seventh v third but they have lost boss John Sheridan who has walked out ahead of a proposed move to Chesterfield. On form it should be a home or at worst back Carlisle not to lose at 11-8 with Marathonbet as I don't know what effect Sheridan's exit will have on the team.

Recommended Bets

  • Lukaku to score first
  • Man United to win to nil
  • Burnley
  • Accrington
  • Blackburn
  • Charlton v Sunderland btts
  • Carlisle or Carlisle dnb

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