After last week’s win at Cambridge United, Pompey will turn their attention to the Emirates FA Cup where they have been handed a fairly uninspiring home draw against Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers. Unlike the Blues’ exploits in the Checkatrade Trophy and the EFL Cup, they are likely to take the FA Cup almost as seriously as the league with a near full-strength team selection.
Wycombe have endured a disappointing start to their League Two campaign and are now in 21st place after 15 matches. The Chairboys have already made one visit to Fratton Park so far this season, where they fell to a 4-2 defeat after Christian Burgess, Conor Chaplin, Carl Baker, and Gary Roberts got on the scoresheet. A brace from Paul Hayes was not enough for the visitors to take anything from the game on that occasion, but they can look forward to doing it all over again on Saturday.
One to watch:
Needless to say, Wycombe’s poor league form has not allowed many players to emerge with standout performances, but players such as Matt Bloomfield are always capable of creating goalscoring chances while Jamal Blackman is a solid asset in goal. With it being the FA Cup, however, we could see Adebayo Akinfenwa upgraded from his usual position on the bench to a starting berth. The 16 stone giant, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, will ensure that the Pompey defence is in for a physical battle if he plays.
Wycombe usually operate with a 4-2-3-1 system and are infamous in the lower leagues for their physicality and regular use of gamesmanship. The Chairboys can usually be relied upon to leave a foot in on opposition players off the ball to rough them up and always seem to lose their intensity late in the game when the ball is out of play. However, it can’t be all their fault as their players are so unlucky as to always pick up injuries when the match approaches stoppage time! Joking aside, Pompey will be in for a physical battle as Wycombe will look to play a direct style on Saturday.
We’ve seen you before…:
Marcus Bean very rarely features for his side nowadays due to his advancing age, but the fact that it is a cup tie may make it more likely for him to be involved. He will be pleased that Michael Doyle is suspended for the Blues, as the two enjoyed many a scuffle when last Bean played at Fratton Park. If he does play, Bean will not get the warmest of welcomes from the Fratton Faithful after he rejected a permanent switch to Fratton Park in favour of Adams Park.
It has been a while since Pompey last won at home, with a win not having come since the comprehensive victory over Barnet in September. Having said that, the performances shown in recent matches at Cambridge, Plymouth, and Leyton Orient are enough to convince me that Pompey are not in poor form, they just need to ensure that they play in the same way at Fratton Park as they do on their travels.
After Amine Linganzi’s red card last week at Cambridge and Michael Doyle having picked up a one-match suspension for earning his fifth caution of the season, there will be a reshuffle in the centre of the park for Pompey. Paul Cook has also confirmed that Adam Buxton will make a return from his latest injury problem by replacing Gareth Evans at right-back. Other than that, it will just be a case of which players need a rest in terms of who misses out. Conor Chaplin is currently on the longest run of starts in his career with seven in a row, so he is probably the prime candidate to drop out of the starting eleven, but with Curtis Main unavailable for selection that would mean a recall for either Noel Hunt or Michael Smith for the first time in a while. Here is my predicted lineup:
Despite the relatively large-scale changes that are being made to the starting eleven this week compared to the usual one or two, Pompey will still be fielding eleven good players. I am confident that the team Pompey will put out is more than capable of competing in the league as well as the FA Cup so the performance will just be a case of whether the team is able to shake off their recent disappointments at home and play to the level they are capable of. I am not expecting another six-goal thriller unfortunately, so Pompey fans will have to be satisfied with a scrappy 1-0 win.
Man of the Match prediction:
For some reason I can just see Ben Close excelling in the centre of midfield. He got a run in the side around the middle of last season due to injuries and did himself justice, including playing a key role in the build up to Pompey’s goal against Bournemouth in the FA Cup, and I have an inkling that he could steal the show on Saturday.
First goalscorer prediction:
Noel Hunt impressed me when he came off the bench for the last half hour against Cambridge and, should he start, I fancy him to get on the scoresheet against Wycombe. He is newly back from injury so is unlikely to last the full 90 minutes, but I would back him to use his experience to take any chances that are presented to him.