The arrival of the first weekend of 2013 means it’s time for the return of the FA Cup, with Championship challengers Crystal Palace hosting Premier League giants Stoke City in one of the picks of the third-round schedule.
Both teams have impressed so far this term, with the Potters enjoying an excellent first half of the season which has seen them come into contention for a Europa League qualification spot.
Palace, meanwhile, remain in the fight for promotion to the Premier League, with recently-appointed manager Ian Holloway maintaining much of the momentum generated by previous boss Dougie Freedman.
The south Londoners have proven particularly hard to beat and have lost just two of their last 23 competitive matches, while also going 12 games unbeaten at Selhurst Park.
By contrast, Stoke’s impressive home form has been tempered by some equally terrible displays away from the Britannia Stadium.
The cracks have certainly started to show in the Potters’ defence away from home, with Tony Pulis’ team without a win or a goal in three matches on the road in the Premier League.
With Stoke’s confidence dented by a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City last time out, Crystal Palace could attract plenty of interest at 17/10 to pull off the upset.
Despite this, Holloway is keen to stress that Palace’s focus remains on pushing for Premier League promotion.
“We’ll have a good go at it but the cup run last year didn’t really help this club with its league position,” he said in a recent interview.
“We’re focused on how well we can do in this league. It’s very tough, very difficult.”
Stoke’s top-flight status ensures they head into this match as narrow favourites for the win at 27/20, while the draw is priced up at 11/5.
Palace will no doubt be encouraged by the Potters’ attacking troubles on their travels, as they have scored more than once in just three of their last 25 away games in all competitions.
However, in fairness to Pulis and his troops, they showed in their run to the FA Cup quarter-finals last year that they can rise to the challenge of facing lower-league teams on the road.
Gillingham, Derby County and Crawley Town were all dispatched for the concession of just one goal and Stoke arguably boast a stronger squad now compared to 12 months ago.
Factor in Holloway’s apparent desire to focus on getting Palace back into the top flight for the first time since 2005 and the Potters must be the play here at 27/20.
Top bet: Stoke to beat Crystal Palace @ 27/20