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THE FA Cup returns this week with both Newcastle and Sunderland facing tricky away ties in the third round.

Newcastle travel to Vicarage Road to face in-form Watford, while Sunderland are at league leaders Arsenal.

The FA Cup is usually a welcome distraction to the rigours of the Premier League - but in the case of Steve McClaren and Sam Allardyce, it brings unwanted added fixtures and the possibility of more injuries when either side can least afford them.

When you are scrapping at the wrong end of the league table it's points we are looking for rather than a run in the cup. Don't get me wrong, it would be fantastic to see one of our lot to bring home some silverware - but not at the expense of Premier League survival.

Newcastle head to Vicarage Road as rank outsiders at odds of 11/4 with the Hornets odds on favourites at 5/6, the draw completes the betting at 11/5. Despite Watford sitting in mid-table, I believe Newcastle have what it takes to progress to the next round today.

Judging by the odds being offered by William Hill, Sunderland might as well save the cost of travelling today and stay at home. Hills have the Black Cats on offer at massive odds of 9/1 to spring a surprise while the Gunners are priced up at a short 2/9, the draw is 19/5. I have no doubt that Big Sam will have one eye on next Tuesday's match against Swansea when he picks his team today therefore I would expect several changes to the side which beat Aston Villa so impressively last week.

Having said that, Arsene Wenger may also rest several key players. If you fancy the Black Cats to complete what seems like Mission: Impossible a 1-0 win in favour of Big Sam's men would earn you decent odds of 18/1 whereas a 2-0 win pays a massive 66/1. The last thing that Allardyce would be looking for is a replay, however a 0-0 scoreline pays odds of 12/1. Remember, it's the FA Cup remember - anything can happen.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 9, 2016
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