Big guns should progress in the FA Cup, says Soccer Saturday pundit Charlie Nicholas

Charlie Nicholas
Image: Charlie Nicholas gives his predictions for the weekend's FA Cup third round ties

Charlie Nicholas predicts a comfortable afternoon for holders Arsenal and Manchester City but a tricky test for Stoke and Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round.

Here the Soccer Saturday pundit casts his eye over a selection of the key ties and makes his predictions below... 

Wycombe v Aston Villa (Saturday, 12.45pm)

Charlie says: This has Villa exit written all over it. I know Remi Garde thinks they still have a chance of staying up but they are down. I do think, however, they have a bit of fight in them and this is the opportunity to show it and get the job done.

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde
Image: Aston Villa manager Remi Garde could get his first win as manager against League Two outfit Wycombe Wanderers

Wycombe will frighten them for the first 20-25 minutes but I think Villa will come through and avoid potential embarrassment.

Charlie predicts: Wycombe 1, Aston Villa 3 and Gestede first goal scorecast (55/1 with Sky Bet)

Arsenal v Sunderland (Saturday, 3pm)

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Charlie says: I anticipate both sides making changes for this one with Sunderland focusing more on important league matches ahead in their fight for Premier League survival.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates winning the FA Cup with Arsenal
Image: Arsenal have won the FA Cup for the last two seasons

With Sanchez out, I'd like to see Jeff Reine-Adelaide handed a start. He's an exciting talent and someone who could benefit from game time for the back-to-back cup winners.

I'd also like to see Walcott come in for Giroud in a central role. Giroud's form has been erratic of late, and I think he's in a comfort-zone where he thinks he's going to play every game but I'd leave him out. Sunderland will be disciplined and organised but I still expect Arsenal to win comfortably.

Charlie predicts: Arsenal 3, Sunderland 0 Oxlaide-Chamberlain first goal (17/2 with Sky Bet)

Doncaster v Stoke (Saturday, 3pm)

Stoke City Mark Hughes looks on following his sides victory during the Capital One Cup match between Stoke
Image: Stoke City Mark Hughes who won't be relishing a trip to Sky Bet League One side Doncaster

Charlie says: Stoke are never convincing in the cups and this could turn out to be a difficult afternoon for the Potters.

Darren Ferguson's team have improved and are playing well and I expect them to go for it. I think Mark Hughes will rest a few and give the likes of Walters and Crouch a game, two guys who know all about the tradition of the FA Cup. It's going to be tight, but I think Stoke will just edge it.

Charlie predicts: Doncaster 1, Stoke 2 Jon Walters first scorer (5/1 with Sky Bet)

Norwich v Man City (Saturday, 3pm)

Yaya Toure puts City back in front from the penalty spot
Image: Yaya Toure scored the winning penalty when the two sides met at the end of October in the Premier League

Charlie says: Will Pellegrini give Aguero and Silva another 90 minutes or save them? Silva is not quite right for me. I don't understand why he doesn't change it and play Aguero up top with Bony, who can provide the muscle.

I think Norwich should really have a go, it's a free shot at a big scalp if they don't I think City will just pick them off.

Charlie predicts: Norwich 1, Man City 3 Wilfried Bony first scorer (9/2 with Sky Bet)

Southampton v Crystal Palace (Saturday, 3pm)

Charlie says: I think Alan Pardew really fancies a shot at the FA Cup this season, while Southampton need to get some momentum after some inconsistent performances recently.

I think it will be another close match but I'm not sure where Palace's goals will come from without Wickham and Bolasie, who is a huge miss. This is a good opportunity for Ronald Koeman to get Southampton back on track.

Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace celebrates
Image: Yohan Cabaye's goal was enough to give Crystal Palace a 1-0 win against Southampton in December

Charlie predicts:Southampton 2, Palace 1 Graziano Pelle first scorer (4/1 with Sky Bet)

Watford v Newcastle (Saturday, 3pm)

Charlie says: Do Newcastle see this as a priority, or do they focus their attentions on stabilising themselves in the Premier League? Am I devaluing the FA Cup by saying that, yes I probably am but the league must be more important to them.

Charlie predicts...

Charlie predicts...

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For Watford, I see this as an opportunity to progress. I don't think Quique Sanchez Flores will tinkering around too much and can see him playing a strong side.

Charlie predicts: Watford 2, Newcastle 0 Almen Abdi first goal (10/1 with Sky Bet)

West Ham v Wolves (Saturday, 3pm)

Dimitri Payet of West Ham United celebrates
Image: Dimitri Payet could start for West Ham as he continues his comeback from injury

Charlie says: I don't really understand what's happening with Wolves as they are up and down the leagues. I'm surprised they've managed to keep hold of Benik Afobe as long as they have. He's a Premier League player for me and I think he'll be moving on before the end of the month.

West Ham are going well at the moment and this game gives the likes of Dimitri Payet a chance to improve his game time. This, along with Arsenal, is a banker. I can see Carroll thriving on crosses and getting a couple of goals in this match.

Charlie predicts: West Ham 3, Wolves 0 Carroll to score a brace (17/2 with Sky Bet)

Man United v Sheffield United (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Charlie says: This is another dangerous game for United against a side who have a habit of causing cup shocks. I just feel last week's victory over Swansea has given United a big jump in confidence and has eased some of the pressure on Louis van Gaal.

Louis van Gaal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea
Image: Louis van Gaal will be looking for a convincing performance from his Man Utd side when they host League One Sheffield United

He will be desperate to gather some momentum from that victory with a convincing win, but anything but and the pressure will continue to heap on the United manager.

Charlie predicts: Man Utd 3, Sheffield United 1 Anthony Martial first goal scorecast (30/1 with Sky Bet)

Chelsea v Scunthorpe (Sunday, 2pm)

Charlie says: This is a good game for Chelsea. They were impressive against Palace last week and seem to be playing more as a team now under Hiddink.

I feel they are a much better side with Fabregas pushed much further forward linking with Costa. He's got such a good range of passes and this should be straight forward for Chelsea.

Chelsea's Guus Hiddink during a training session
Image: Charlie is predicting a straight forward win for Guus Hiddink's Chelsea against Scunthorpe this weekend

Charlie predicts: Chelsea 4, Scunthorpe 0 Cesc Fabregas first goal scorecast (45/1 with Sky Bet)

Tottenham v Leicester City (Sunday, 4pm)

Charlie says: What a cracker and it's simply a case of who wants to win it most. What Pochettino is doing at Tottenham is remarkable and that's coming from an ex-Gunner. Can he afford to leave Harry Kane out for this one?

It will be a big test for their centre-backs but with no Jamie Vardy that should make it a bit easier for them, he's a big miss. I think there will be plenty of goals in this but I'm going for Spurs to edge it.

Charlie predicts: Tottenham 3, Leicester 2 Christian Eriksen first goal scorecast (115/1 with Sky Bet)

Ritchie De Laet of Leicester City and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur compete for the ball
Image: Two of the Premier League's top strikers could be missing from Spurs v Leicester, with Jamie Vardy definitely out and Harry Kane potentially rested

Cardiff v Shrewsbury (Sunday, 6pm)

Charlie says: Cardiff tend to blow hot and cold and Shrewsbury will see it as an opportunity to spring a surprise. But while the Bluebirds are unconvincing they should have enough to see them through.

Charlie predicts: Cardiff 2, Shrewsbury 0 Craig Noone first goal scorecast (45/1 with Sky Bet)

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