The FA Cup returns this weekend and things are hotting up as the final 16 teams fight it out for a place in the quarter-finals!
Can Sutton do the unthinkable and beat Arsenal? Will any manager risk uproar and field a weakened side? Can Manchester United continue their defence of the trophy?
Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting few days of action that’s for sure…
Burnley v Lincoln (12:30pm)
This will be the end of the dream for Lincoln. Games are now coming fast and furious for them and they have lost their Cup Talisman Theo Robinson to Southend. Burnley are a well drilled team, especially at home, where they have an excellent record and Dyche will not tinker too much.
Both teams are producing the results in their respective leagues, with both hoping for league honours at the end of the season. This will be an open game with both teams eager to show their flamboyancy.
There were few shocks in the last round of the F.A. Cup, although there were a few shocks with our Best Bets last week: we nailed a few Premier League winning selections!
The FA Cup returns this weekend, with all 16 fourth-round ties taking place between Friday and Sunday.
Our team has taken the time to analyse the six televised games taking place, providing you with a few tips along the way.
Remember, all of the links below are directed to a generic MyClubBetting site. Once you login, you will be redirected to the club betting site that you are registered to.
As always, be sure to share your opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting twitter page…
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Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the televise F.A. Cup Fourth round matches this weekend…
DERBY v LEICESTER
Championship Derby (8/5) have been rock-solid at home. The Championship side conceded twice to Reading last weekend, but it was the first time since September 24 that they had conceded a goal at Pride Park.
They went on to win 3-2 and are nicely settled in seventh place, well within shouting distance of their playoff rivals. Steve McClaren’s side has only conceded seven goals in 14 home games and the Rams won half of those encounters.
Derby won 2-1 at Premier League West Brom in the previous round, so the stuttering champions of England should hold few fears.
However, Leicester (17/10) have held sway over the Rams in the past few seasons. Winning eight of the last nine games, Derby’s sole success was a 2-1 win in the Championship back in March 2013. Positive results have been common in their meetings, too, with just five of the last 31 clashes ending in stalemate.
Leicester may well be struggling at the moment. Their away form is dreadful, taking just three points from a possible 33 on their EPL travels. Furthermore, they have yet to register a road win and have notched just eight times in those 11 games.
Derby will have their tails up, but something tells us that the relief of playing in the FA Cup, away from the constant pressure at both ends of the table in the last 18 months, will be just what the Foxes and Claudio Ranieri need. We take City to edge it with Jamie Vardy possibly enjoying the spotlight again.
Liverpool (1/4) may have suffered a hammer blow to their Premier League title chances last weekend, in going down to a shock 3-2 loss at home to struggling Swansea. Jurgen Klopp’s side now trail Chelsea by 10 points and with the two Manchester clubs chasing hard, there is no guarantee of European football next season.
They have plenty of issues at the back, which is a bit of a recurring theme over the past few seasons and have shipped 12 more goals than Chelsea. Their away form has also been better than it has been at home, even though the Reds’ loss to the Swans was their first at Anfield for over 12 months. They have won one of their last seven in all competitions at home and had to go to Plymouth to sneak through 1-0 in a replay after their FA Cup third round tie ended goalless at Anfield.
They have missed Sadio Mane, who has been ruled out since January 2, while influential midfielder Philippe Coutinho has only recently returned from a six-week lay-off with an ankle ligament injury and Joel Matip has only just rejoined the defence. The problems are not all about individuals, however. They look vulnerable when the ball is pumped into the box.
Having had a gruelling League Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton on Wednesday – and suffering another bitter home defeat – many will fancy Wolves’ (9/1) chances of causing an upset.
Wanderers sit 18th in the Championship, but dumped out Stoke in the last round and turned over Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago. While they went down 3-1 at Norwich, Paul Lambert had to use all three subs by the time keeper Carl Ikeme had been sent off for a push on Wes Hoolihan. In Wanda Helder Costa, they have a striker who can cause plenty of problems for Liverpool. Indeed, we see Wolves notching at least once at Anfield.
However, it is unlikely that Klopp (below) will make wholesale changes and take the visitors lightly, so we plump for a home win with Wolves suffering a backlash for the Reds’ League Cup exit.
Arsenal (11/10) do not have particularly fond memories of recent trips to St Mary’s. In fact they have won just one of their last six trips to the south coast and have won just three of the last 10 meetings with the Southampton (12/5) in all competitions. They have failed to register a goal in four of the last five clashes, too.
So, do we sniff an upset?
This has come at the wrong time for the Saints, who are victims of their own success, having had to face Liverpool at Anfield in midweek. Though they won 1-0 to reach their first domestic final since 2003, that game will have taken plenty out of Cluade Puel’s side. They will no doubt be aching from that clash (celebratory hangovers aside) and possibly from laughing so hard at West Ham paying £8m for 33-year-old defender Jose Fonte last week.
Saints are going nowhere in mid-table, so the Cup competitions are a nice distraction, but we feel this could be one game too many.
Arsenal are still in the hunt for the title after an unconvincing 2-1 win at home to Burnley, but the fact that Danny Welback (below) is up and running again means Wenger will have plenty of firepower at his disposal, particularly with Olivier Giroud in fine form.
We take the Gunners to get a least a draw out of this and while they are short enough at 21/20 to win, Saints could be running on empty by the second half.
Millwall (2/1) caused a big shock in the third round, knocking out Premier League Bournemouth in convincing style. However, Eddie Howe made so many changes that Millwall should really have been heavy favourites, rather than the outsiders they were.
Watford (11/8) will not be such easy prey for the Lions. Indeed, they have a horrible record against the Hornets, who have lost twice in the last 16 meetings, winning 10. In fact, Watford have lost just once in their last eight trips to The New Den, which would have become the old New Den if Lewisham Council had not backtracked on their Compulsory Purchase Order plans this week.
The League One side may be just three points off the play-off places and that is where their priorities lay, but while their home form has seen them win seven of 13 and aside from their win over Bournemouth, they have yet to win in January, notching draws at AFC Wimbledon, Charlton and Bradford City. To be fair, they have not lost, either.
Watford’s campaign has been beset by injuries and they have not won in seven league games. Yet there were signs at Bournemouth last weekend that Walter Mazzarri’s (below) side were ready to bounce back. Despite their rather generous odds of 11/8 – which often sets alarm bells ringing – we see the Hornets as one of the better bets this weekend.
National League Sutton (4/1) set up a tasty TV tie after knocking out 10-man AFC Wimbledon with a 3-1 win at The Cherry Road Stadium in a replay.
Leeds (4/6), who last won this competition on 1972 under Don Revie, should be a couple of classes apart and having been given a scare by Cambridge United, they won’t take this game lightly.
Garry Monk, who was harshly dispensed with by Swansea, has got ‘dirty’ Leeds playing some attractive football and they are in the thick of the play-off battle in the Championship. While they could have done without a midweek clash with Nottingham Forest (which they won 2-0 to put them third in the table), they should get through this tie without too much fuss, nice story though it is.
If there was a ‘form’ game that we could consider to be a banker, then this is it. Wigan (14/1) have won a grand total of one meeting in the last 18 against Manchester United (1/6) – who have won the other 17 clashes. Just the recipe for a shock result, then?
Not quite. If history is anything to go by, they will not only fail to score – as has happened in eight of the last nine encounters – they will lose by at least two clear goals, as has been the case in 14 of their last 18 meetings. In fact, Wigan have managed just one goal in their last 10 visits to Old Trafford. Oddly, there has not been a draw and the law of betting averages says we are overdue. But given the history, we’d want double the 6/1 currently offered for that to happen.
Much depends on the strength of the United side that Jose Mourinho (above) will put out. He has already made noises this week about fixture congestion, and it has not helped that United had to travel to Hull for League Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday. They are, of course, in the Europa League, so how much emphasis they place on this competition is arguable.
Still, we are happy to roll with the hosts, whatever side the Special One puts out.
The FA Cup returns this weekend, with all 32 third round ties taking place between Friday and Monday.
Our team have taken the time to analyse the six televised games taking place, providing you with a few tips along the way!
Remember, all of the links below are directed to a generic MyClubBetting site. Once you login, you will be redirected to the club betting site that you are registered to.
As always, be sure to share your opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting twitter page…
WEST HAM v MAN CITY
Friday – 19:55
West Ham fans will be delighted coming into this one – as Mike Dean won’t be refereeing the game!
Dean made a horrendous error at the London Stadium, effectively ending the Hammers chances against Manchester United after unfairly sending Sofiane Feghouli off within the first 20 minutes.
Despite evidently showing signs that he is feeling the pressure, Pep Guardiola has had a pretty decent couple of weeks. Man City’s defeat at Liverpool on New Year’s Eve has been the only time that they have dropped points in their last five games, with the Sky Blues scoring on nine occasions during that time.
That said, City keeper Claudio Bravo is looking very short of confidence, and a game rarely goes by where he doesn’t make a glaring error. If the Chilean starts ahead of Willy Caballero at the London Stadium then expect West Ham to cause him all sorts of problems, particularly if big Andy Carroll is on the field!
It is worth noting that both teams have managed to score in four of the last five meetings, including Manchester City’s 3-1 win at the Etihad earlier this season. In fact, you have to go back ten clashes to find the last time Manchester City failed to score against West Ham.
Between them, West Ham and Manchester City have failed to score in just six of their combined 42 league games so far this season.
With all that in mind, we see neither side keeping a clean sheet at the London Stadium.
Jaap Stam returns to his former stomping ground on Saturday lunchtime.
The now Reading manager was part of Manchester United’s famous treble winning side of the late nineties, eventually leaving for Lazio in 2001 after conflict with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Stam is doing a fine job as Reading boss. The Royals are just one place outside the automatic promotion spots and trail leaders Brighton by only eight points.
Their opponents, Manchester United are also in great form – winning their last seven games in all competitions.
Jose Mourinho’s side have been dominant at home this season. The Red Devils side have taken 19 points from a possible 30 at Old Trafford – losing just once.
The last three games involving Reading have resulted in a staggering 14 goals. In fact, the Royals are among the highest scorers in the Championship this season, so we expect them to find the net at some point on Saturday.
However, United are unbeaten in their last seven FA Cup clashes, and we expect that run to continue at Old Trafford.
Preston hosted Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup back in 1999. On that day, the Gunners were victorious after an Emmanuel Petit brace helped them to a 4-2 win.
Both sides are coming into this game in fairly decent form. Preston have lost just one of their last five games, with Arsenal winning two of their last three.
After a busy festive period, expect Arsene Wenger to stick to his usual early round routine and rest a host of key attacking players for the game at Deepdale.
While they scored three away at Bournemouth on Tuesday night, Arsenal seem to lack creativity without Mesut Ozil, who has missed each of their last two games through illness. The German playmaker looks unlikely to feature at Preston and with top scorer Alexis Sanchez in desperate need of a rest, we really see Arsenal struggling to break the hosts down.
With that in mind, we see Saturday’s game being a fairly low scoring affair, with the hosts being more than happy to settle for a replay.
This will be the first meeting between Liverpool and Plymouth since 1962 – a game in which the Merseysiders won by three goals to two.
After needing a replay to scrape past Newport County in the last round, Plymouth have been rewarded with a lucrative trip to Anfield.
In truth, both sides have enjoyed the first half of their respective seasons.
Liverpool currently sit in second place in the Premier League, while Plymouth are occupying exactly the same position in League Two.
Incidentally, Plymouth defender Billy Palfrey is the cousin of our weekly rugby columnist, Luke Chapman. The young defender recently returned from a loan spell at Torquay and is expected to make the bench for Argyle on Sunday.
Liverpool have been solid at the back in recent weeks, keeping three clean sheets in their last five home games.
Much of this solidarity has come from the fine form of Dejan Lovren, who is starting to look like the defensive leader Liverpool have craved since the departure of Jamie Carragher.
Jürgen Klopp’s men are yet to lose at Anfield this season, winning nine times and drawing twice in all competitions, whilst conceding only eight goals along the way.
This won’t be music to the ears of Plymouth fans who have seen their side score just five times in as many league games.
We expect the hosts to win this one, keeping a clean sheet in the process.
Tottenham have dominated games against Aston Villa in recent years – winning eight of the last nine clashes between the sides.
During that time, the North Londoners have managed 22 goals, conceding just twice and keeping an impressive seven clean sheets.
Aston Villa have struggled on the road this season, and have only managed to win twice away from Villa Park since being relegated to the Championship in May.
Spurs are yet to lose at White Hart Lane during this campaign, with their only two home defeats coming at Wembley whilst on Champions League duty.
Since taking over at the club in October, Steve Bruce has managed to steady the ship, particularly in home games. However, his new side are still struggling away from Villa Park and have only managed one win in their last six away games.
This will be pleasing news for Tottenham, who have won their last four home games – netting on thirteen occasions.
Dele Alli will be coming into this game full of confidence, scoring seven times in his last four appearances. It is also worth noting that the England midfielder managed to find the net in this fixture last season.
We are going for a comfortable home win and if selected, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Alli to find the net again.
Garry Monk has done a brilliant job since taking over as Leeds manager in the summer.
Despite their off-field distractions, Leeds look like a together unit, and are currently occupying fifth place in the Championship after four wins from their last five league games.
Cambridge United may be flying high in League Two, but they have struggled in front of their home fans so far this season. The U’s have dropped points in seven of their 12 home league games so far this season – losing on five occasions.
This will be music to the ears of Leeds fans, who have already seen their side win an impressive six league games away from home during this campaign.
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There is no doubting that the FA Cup Final is still one of the biggest spectacles on the sporting calendar, and this year, Crystal Palace and Manchester United do battle for the world famous trophy at Wembley.
Below, MyClubBetting and Bet4Causes tipster Calum Chinchen analyses Saturday’s game, providing you with a few tips in the process!
Don’t forget to share your opinions with us via the @MyClubBetting Twitter page.
Manchester United (3/4)are no strangers to FA Cup finals, and will be looking to get their hands on the famous trophy for the 12th time in their illustrious history. The Red Devils last tasted FA Cup final success at the Millennium Stadium back in 2004 when they beat another South London club, Millwall, by three goals to nil.
It has been a different story for Crystal Palace (17/4) who last reached the FA Cup Final in 1990, when they faced…that’s right, Manchester United.
A replay was needed that year after their first game at Wembley ended in an exhilarating 3-3 draw, and it was the Manchester club who eventually lifted the trophy after Lee Martin’s solitary goal in the second meeting.
Crystal Palace manager, Alan Pardew was in the Eagles’ team that day, and it was his heroics that secured a final spot for the South Londoners a few weeks earlier. Pardew (below) got a vital winner in the semi-final against Liverpool, making him an instant hero amongst Palace fans for years to come.
Things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United this season. The Red Devils missed out on Champions League qualification after eventually finishing fifth in the league, after beating Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
There is absolutely no doubt that finding the net has been the main issue for the Manchester Club during this campaign. The negative style adopted by van Gaal (below) has come under criticism all season, from both fans and pundits alike. In all honestly it is very hard to argue with that negativity, especially when you consider that United’s lowly Premier League goals tally of 49 is a staggering 22 goals short of that recorded by rivals and league top scorers, Manchester City.
It has most definitely been a season of two halves for Crystal Palace. After 19 league games, Alan Pardew’s men found themselves in fifth position – recording nine wins and collecting an impressive 31 points.
However, the Eagles really struggled for form after the turn of the year and only managed to win on two occasions – eventually finishing just five points above the relegation zone.
It is fair to say that Man United have dominated this fixture in recent years. The Red Devils are unbeaten in all of their last six games against Palace, drawing once and winning five times during that period.
United usually manage to stop Palace scoring too, and have managed to keep 10 clean sheets during the previous 13 clashes between the two sides.
That said, the last time the sides met in a domestic cup competition, it was Palace who came out on top. Darren Ambrose’s extra time wonder goal at Old Trafford back in 2011 was enough to send Palace through to the sixth round of the League Cup.
One man who enjoys playing in this fixture is Juan Mata. In a Manchester United shirt, the Spaniard has netted in two of his four appearances against Sunday’s opponents. Mata (below) has been one of United’s most consistent performers this season, scoring on six occasions and laying on five assists during their Premier League campaign.
While Mata can find the net in this fixture, not many others can. Amazingly, only one of the last six meetings between these sides has ended with more than two goals.
In all honesty, both sides have also struggled for goals in the league this season. Between them, United and Palace shared just 88 goals between them in the entire 2015/16 campaign.
With all that in mind, it is hard not to side with recent history here. Everything points to a low scoring encounter, with Manchester United eventually coming out on top.
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Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches in the FA Cup quarter-finals and the Premier League…
Reading (3.20)have become extremely hard to beat under Brian McDermott, particularly when playing in front of their own fans. The Royals haven’t lost at home in any competition during 2016, and were convincing winners against Premier League West Brom at the Madejski in the last round.
Things have really gone downhill for Crystal Palace (2.25) in recent weeks. The Eagles’ recent FA Cup victories over Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham have provided a welcome distraction from their wretched league form. Alan Pardew’s men haven’t managed a win in any of their last 12 league games and have lost a staggering eight times in that period.
Garath McCleary is without a doubt, Reading’s most dangerous player. The Jamaican international is an old fashioned winger, who enjoys hugging the touchline, beating full-backs and providing strikers with good service. McCleary also has the odd wonder goal in his locker, taking the opportunity to shoot from distance whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Alan Pardew’s first managerial role was at Reading. Pardew took charge at the Madejski in 1999, becoming a popular figure with the Royals’ faithful after guiding the club to the old ‘First Division’ during his tenure. However, his success didn’t go un-noticed and things turned ugly when West Ham made an approach for Pardew in 2003. After a spell of gardening leave and an eventual resignation, Pardew eventually left Reading for Upton Park – something that Royals fans have never forgiven him for.
Games between these two sides usually produce goals. In their last eight clashes, Reading and Crystal Palace have shared an impressive 29 goals, with six of those meetings ending with more than two goals.
We can’t split these two, and see this one going to a replay after a scoring draw. [CC]
Everton(2.70) will be cursing their luck after surrendering a two-goal lead during their loss to West Ham last weekend, especially after star striker Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty with his side 2-0 to the good.
Chelsea (2.50)were punished by Stoke last time out, after making wholesale changes in preparation for their game with PSG on Wednesday night. Despite leading 1-0 for a long period at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea couldn’t hold on, eventually conceding a late Mame Diouf goal to draw 1-1.
Romelu Lukaku was a Chelsea player for three years. However, he only made 10 league appearances before being sold to Everton for £28m in 2014, after a successful loan spell.
In truth, the powerful Belgian striker struggled in his first season as a permanent Everton player. However, he has more than made up for that during this campaign. Lukaku has been wonderful this season, and while his 18 league goals have caught the attention, it has been his hold-up play and use of the ball that has impressed the more knowledgeable football fan.
Chelsea’s away form has been superb in 2016. Since the turn of the year, Guus Hiddink’s men have taken 13 points from a possible 15 on the road – conceding just two goals in the five-game period.
Goals are usually on the agenda when these two sides meet at Goodison Park. In their last two clashes at the famous Merseyside stadium, Everton and Chelsea have shared a staggering 13 goals, including the West Londoners’ 6-3 win back in 2014.
Chelsea are yet to lose a domestic game under Guus Hiddink since his return to the club, and we fancy them to avoid defeat again on Saturday evening – in a game where both sides get on the scoresheet. [CC]
In recent weeks, Arsene Wenger has come under fire from Gunners’ fans. Prior to their victory over Hull on Tuesday evening, Arsenal (1.52) had gone five games without a win in all competitions, including embarrassing losses against Swansea and a weakened Manchester United team.
Watford (6.00)look to be ‘on the beach’ after all but securing their Premier League status last month. Their fifth-round victory over Leeds on February 20th was the Hornets’ last victory in all competitions and Quique Sanchez Flores will be more than concerned after their back-to-back league losses in recent weeks.
The form of Gabriel is worrying many Arsenal fans. The Brazilian defender was bought to the club from Villarreal for over £10m during last year’s January transfer window. However, since arriving at the club, Gabriel has convinced nobody. Whilst the Brazilian’s pace often gets him out of trouble, his positional sense, communication skills and physicality are all well below standard. This was particularly evident in the Gunners’ recent defeat at Old Trafford where Gabriel was given a torrid time by young striker Marcus Rashford.
Watford are really struggling for goals at the moment. Despite having the prolific Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney in their ranks, the Hornets haven’t netted in any of their last three games and have only managed to score five league goals in all of 2016.
After their recent poor league form and seemingly impossible Champions League task, there is no doubting that the FA Cup is now Arsenal’s main priority. We expect them to field a full strength team for this one, subsequently advancing to a third consecutive semi-final appearance with a convincing win. [CC]
Louis van Gaal is back under pressure after Manchester United (1.85) lost at the Hawthorns last weekend. The Red Devils failed to recover after Juan Mata’s first-half dismissal, eventually losing 1-0 after Salomon Rondon’s second half winner.
The same cannot be said for Slaven Bilic, who has masterminded impressive victories over Tottenham and Everton in the Hammers’ last two games. West Ham (4.00) battled to a 1-0 home win over their bitter London rivals last Wednesday, before coming back from 2-0 down to beat Everton at Goodison Park at the weekend.
Michail Antonio has been in tremendous form of late. The winger initially struggled for a place in the Hammers’ first-team after his summer arrival from Nottingham Forest. However, since being presented with a chance by his manager, Antonio hasn’t looked back, scoring six times in 2016 and netting in his last three appearances.
Despite their struggles, Manchester United have been in wonderful home form lately. Louis Van Gaal’s side have only lost three games at Old Trafford all season – winning all of their last four.
These two clubs are separated by just two Premier League points, so there is no doubting that this one will be a tight affair. That said, West Ham have a dreadful recent record against Sunday’s opponents, with the Hammers failing to win in any of the last 10 meetings.
We are siding with history here, and fancy a narrow home win at Old Trafford. [CC]
Norwich (5.50)are in real danger of relegation. Alex Neil’s men are in a wretched run of form after going without a league win since early January – losing in all of their last three outings.
Manchester City (1.60) got back to winning ways last weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s men were dominant against Aston Villa, eventually running out 4-0 winners at the Etihad after Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure scored either side of Sergio Aguero’s impressive brace.
Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi look to be establishing themselves as Manchester City’s first-choice central defensive pair. The two have been ever-present since Kompany’s return from injury, and while City are still leaking more goals than Manuel Pellegrini would like, they do look fair more sturdy as a unit without Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis in the team.
Norwich need to start winning home games if they are going to survive relegation. The Canaries have picked up just 16 points from a possible 42 at Carrow Road, and haven’t managed a win in any of their last five home games.
The Canaries have also struggled in front of goal this season. Alex Neil’s men have scored just 31 league goals all season, with strikers Dieumerci Mbokani and Cameron Jerome sharing a mere seven between them so far.
Manchester City have a wonderful recent record against Saturday’s opponents. Norwich have only managed to win one of the last 12 meetings between the two sides, with Manchester City winning nine times in that period.
It is also worth noting that Manchester City have already beaten Norwich twice already this season, including a 3-0 win at Carrow Road in the January’s FA Cup tie.
Everything points to an away win here, and we fancy a repeat of January’s score line. [CC]
Bournemouth (1.91)face arguably their most important game of the season on Saturday. Last weekend, Eddie Howe’s men got a vital away win at Newcastle, lifting them comfortably clear of the relegation places, and a win at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday will surely see them safe with eight games still to play.
Swansea (4.33)face their second successive relegation ‘six-pointer’ this weekend, as Swans’ fans will be hoping for another positive result after their vital victory over fellow strugglers Norwich last weekend.
Charlie Daniels has been an ever-present in the Bournemouth side this season, playing in all but one of the Cherries league games so far. As a converted winger, now playing as a full-back, Daniels looks more than comfortable in the final third, often joining attacks and providing forward players with quality service. This was particularly evident in last week’s game, when Daniels netted his third Premier League goal of the season, and his second in 2016.
There is no doubting that Swansea would be in far deeper trouble if they didn’t have Gylfi Sigurdsson in their ranks. The Icelandic midfielder is by far the Swans’ most talented player, and his eight league goals from midfield this season have been vital to his side’s fight against relegation. While plenty of Sigurdsson’s goals come from dead-ball situations, he can also be found arriving late into the penalty area during counter attacks – as was the case for his winner against Norwich last week.
While both sides are desperate for a win, they also know that avoiding defeat is a must. With that in mind, we are going for a score-draw here. [CC]
Mark Hughes will be delighted with his side’s recent form. Stoke (2.70)have recovered from a terrible January, and are unbeaten in their last five games – winning four and gaining an impressive point at Chelsea last weekend.
Southampton (2.75)got out of jail last weekend. Virgil van Dijk rescued a point against Sunderland with his stoppage-time goal, leaving Southampton without a league win in their last three games.
Jack Butland is continuing to impress in the Stoke goal, conceding just three times in their last four games and making numerous game-changing saves. The young England goalkeeper has had a wonderful season, and is well and truly knocking on the door for a starting place in the national side. Butland has played every league game for Stoke this season, keeping an impressive 10 clean sheets in the process.
Ronald Koeman will be concerned with Southampton’s away form this season. The Saints have picked up just 17 points away from home this season, winning on just four occasions.
These two sides are separated by just two Premier League points and are arguably the two most similar sides in the league, with inconsistency being the main issue for both.
Since 2006, these two sides have met on 13 occasions, with a staggering 10 of those games ending with both Stoke and Southampton getting on the scoresheet.
It is also worth noting that four of the last eight clashes between the clubs have ended level.
We can’t split these two – a score draw looks like the most likely option. [CC]
The chokers from White Flag Lane were at it again last week, losing at West Ham and failing to beat 10-man Arsenal.
Just when they look like they will do something special and win the title for the first time since 1961, they do their typically Spursy thing.
Arsenal gave their fellow North Londoners a reality check, securing a 2-2 draw in a game that saw some very controversial decisions. There could be no argument about Francis Coquelin’s dismissal for two yellow cards, but how Tottenham’s (1.44) Eric Dier remained on the pitch for blatantly hauling back Olivier Giroud is beyond comprehension. And just for fairness, Hector Bellerin should have walked for pulling back Dele Alli with two minutes to go.
Referee Michael Oliver should be demoted to the Horsham and District Youth Football League roster. Let’s start a petition.
Spurs have a great chance of extending their advantage over Arsenal and the chasing pack as they face a rudderless Aston Villa (7.00) side who lack on-field leadership.
Whether Harry Kane and company can catch top-of-the-table Leicester, who are five points clear, is arguable. We make Leicester 6/5 chances to win the title, with Spurs at 11/4 and Arsenal at 9/2.
Spurs have not lost at Villa Park in the last eight meetings (winning on six occasions, including the last four visits), with Villa’s sole win in the last 15 meetings coming at White Flag Lane last season.
Villa have lost their last four Premier League games and have won just three teams all season.
Not even the most Spursy of Spurs-like performances will see them lose and we see Mauricio Pochettino’s winning by two goals or more. As for any title talk, it may well be just another cock on ball story form the men at No Heart Lane. [SM]
The Magpies looked bereft of ideas when slumping to a 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth, a result which looks like preserving the Cherries’ top-flight status. It may well condemn Newcastle to the Championship, although their clashes with Sunderland and Norwich in the next couple of weeks will tell us more.
Steve McClaren is universally lauded as a good coach, but it was interesting to hear Alan Shearer’s comments on Match Of The Day last weekend. He suggested that McClaren is no manager and there is no question that he has something to prove in this capacity.
Their final game of the season is at home to Tottenham, which may well turn out to be highly significant for both clubs.
Leicester (1.57) are five points clear at the top after their 1-0 win at Watford but they still have to face the likes of West Ham (H) before their last three games against Manchester United (A), Everton (H) and Chelsea (A). That is a tough run-in and they cannot afford to slip up against the likes of Newcastle, whom they have beaten in their last three meetings.
Newcastle have lost 16 games already, while Leicester have dropped just three and they are still the team of no-names who simply do not get the attention they deserve.
While Claudio Ranieri has led the team this season, it defies belief that Nigel Pearson, who crafted the squad, is still searching for a job. Newcastle could do a lot worse than to make an approach.
Leicester won the reverse fixture 3-0 in November and a similar result is on the cards. We see Leicester as a decent price at 4/7 and take them to win again.
There were few shocks in the last round of the F.A. Cup and few shocks with our Best Bets last week: we nailed plenty of Premier League winning selections.
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Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all the F.A. Cup Fifth round matches this weekend…
When it comes to the FA Cup, Hull City (6.50) must be sick and tired of the Gunners after losing to Arsene Wenger’s men in the last two years.
Arsenal (1.57)cruised to a 2-0 home victory in last year’s Third round, but their 2014 final clash at Wembley is the one that most sticks out. Hull went 2-0 up within the first 10 minutes before Arsenal rallied, eventually winning 3-2 after extra time.
After missing nearly a year’s worth of competitive action with a serious knee injury, Danny Welbeck made an unbelievable return to the Arsenal first team last weekend. The England international came off the bench in the 83rd minute against Leicester and was celebrating with the Arsenal faithful just 12 minutes later. Welbeck headed a 95th-minute winner to keep his side in the title race and gained a new found ‘hero’ status among Arsenal fans.
Many people expected Abel Hernandez to leave Hull after their relegation from the Premier League. However, the prolific Uruguayan stuck around and managed to score 16 league goals in the process, with only Andre Gray ahead of him in the Championship goal-scoring standings.
Hernandez got on the scoresheet at the Emirates in October 2014 during Hull’s 2-2 league draw with the Gunners.
That said, Hull have a dreadful recent record against Arsene Wenger’s men. The Gunners are unbeaten in all of the last 10 meetings between these sides, winning nine times.
Admittedly it is a short price, but everything points to a home win here. [CC]
Goals have been a huge issue for Reading (2.50) this season, netting just 38 times during their Championship campaign. In truth, Brian McDermott’s men are lacking a natural goal-scorer.
Since Nick Blackman left for Derby in January, Matej Vydra and Lucas Piazon have been favoured in attack, but the two men have mustered just five league goals between them so far this season.
West Brom (2.88) surprised everyone with a 1-0 win against Everton last weekend. Club-record signing Salomon Rondon got the winner at Goodison Park, with only his fifth Premier League goal since arriving for £12m in the summer.
Over the last three years, Reading defender Michael Hector has become one of the Championship’s best players. This prompted Premier League giants Chelsea to spend £4m on the 23-year-old Jamaican in the summer, before loaning him back to Reading for the 2015/16 campaign.
Hector is predominantly a central defender but, as his squad number of eight would suggest, he is also comfortable playing in the centre of midfield. With John Terry looking almost certain to leave in the summer and Gary Cahill falling out of favour, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Hector found himself in the Chelsea starting 11 come September.
In their last three league games, these sides have shared just three goals and one win between them. It is also worth noting that in the last four meetings, only one has ended with more than two goals being scored.
Everything points to a low-scoring encounter at the Madejski Stadium. [CC]
Watford (1.67)got back to winning ways at Selhurst Park last weekend. Hornets captain Troy Deeney grabbed a brace against Crystal Palace to give his side their first win since January 23.
It has been yet another turbulent season at Elland Road. Leeds (5.50)are once again stuck in mid-table after struggling for consistency throughout the campaign.
However, their real problem again lies off the field, with many of the Leeds faithful now calling for controversial owner Massimo Cellini to vacate his position immediately.
There is a real danger that Watford are beginning to become too dependent on Odion Ighalo and Deeney. Both men have started every league game and between them; Ighalo and Deeney have netted 22 of Watford’s 27 league goals so far this season.
Back in 2013, Steve Evans made some less than complimentary comments about Leeds United, so it was a surprise to everyone when the former Rotherham and Crawley boss was named manager at Elland Road earlier this season. Whilst he still hasn’t won over the entire Leeds faithful, Evans has managed to stabilise the playing staff and steer them away from the relegation places on a shoestring budget.
Games between these two clubs always seem to produce goals. In their last 13 meetings, Leeds and Watford have shared a staggering 46 goals, with 10 of the games ending with more than two goals being scored.
We are going for a high-scoring home win here. [CC]
Bournemouth (3.20) and Everton (2.20) have met only once before – with the Cherries securing a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw on the Vitality Stadium in November. They came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down, scoring two late goals (the last coming in the eighth minute of injury time) in one of the best Premier League games this season.
That was the beginning of Bournemouth’s best spell, as they went on to win three successive Premier League games. Everton have been beaten four times in their last 12 subsequent league games – all of them at home, but have won two and drawn three on the road since then.
While Bournemouth are four points off the drop zone and staying in the top flight is a priority, Everton are 12 points off the top four in 11th place and they have not won a trophy since lifting the FA Cup in 1995. Consequently, they will be all out to go through.
Everton were a little unlucky on their last visit, but give their inconsistent home form, they will no doubt want to finish the job at the first attempt.
Bournemouth were caught on the counter-attack by Stoke last weekend and Everton are a better side when they are not forced onto the front foot. While entertaining to watch, they have the capacity to get caught on the counter attack at home and seem to get results when they are more compact and concede possession a little more.
Similar sentiments can apply to Bournemouth, whose back four can be exposed by pace.
Eddie Howe attempted to address the Cherries’ lack of cutting edge when signing Benik Afobe in the January transfer window, and while he has made a bright start since his arrival from Wolverhampton Wanderers, the lack of goals from elsewhere has been an ongoing problem.
Everton lacked the killer instinct when slipping to a 1-0 home defeat by West Brom on Saturday, despite having 34 attempts on goal to the Baggies’ one. And that one was enough to seal victory.
The good thing for the Toffeemen is that they are creating plenty of opportunities and Romelu Lukaku rarely needs a second invitation.
We feel that Everton are a bit of value to go through to the sixth round. [SM]
The Hammers won their two Premier League clashes, but were held to a goalless draw at Anfield in the Fourth round of the F.A. Cup, and drew 1-1 in the replay at Upton Park before settling the tie deep into injury time of extra time.
To many West Ham fans, this season avenged Liverpool’s rather fortunate 2006 FA Cup final win (on penalties), forever known as the Gerrard Final.
And they now sniff their first major trophy since winning the F.A. Cup in 1980 (the Intertoto Cup in 1999 does not count), whilst attempting to finish in their highest-ever Premier League position (5th in 1998-99).
Blackburn Rovers (3.50) are just five points off the relegation places in the Championship and have won just six of their 29 league games. The loss of Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough has hit hard and following their 2-0 home defeat by high-flying Hull, they have now failed to win any of their last nine games in the division.
Manager Paul Lambert was hampered by the loss of Danny Graham, Grant Hanley and former Crawley Town and Reading striker Hope Akpan last weekend and while they should all be fit, he know a Cup run has been a happy distraction. They simply cannot afford to be dragged into a relegation battle and resources will be stretched as they face 11 games in just over a month.
Ex-Hammer Elliott Ward has tuned into a commanding presence at the heart of the Rovers’ defence and the on-loan signing of Sunderland’s Jordi Gomez has provided plenty of creativity to their midfield, but Rovers are lacking in front of goal.
They have won just three of their 14 home games this season (drawn 7 and lost 4) and have scored 12 goals. Only Charlton have a worse home record in the division.
Their record against the Hammers is nothing to write home about, either. Since thrashing West Ham 7-1 in the Premier League in October 2001, Rovers have won just one of the last 16 meetings, although the last five clashes have been drawn (all yielding less than three goals).
There was barely a shock in the Fourth round and while the form points to a West Ham win, we feel that if there is to be a surprise, it will be at Ewood Park.
West Ham have a nasty habit of starting slowly and if they come out with the same lethargy that inflicted them at Norwich last weekend, they could easily come unstuck. They are simply too big at odds-against, which also sets alarm bells ringing. The Hammers are worth taking on. [SM]
Spurs are still battling in two Cup competitions and are just two points off the Premier League summit, having won at Manchester City last weekend.
Palace have won three of the last 13 meetings with Tottenham, but have failed to win any of their last nine Premier League games and have taken three points from a possible 27 since winning at Stoke on December 19.
Palace have lost to Spurs twice already this season in the league, going down 1-0 at White Hart Lane in September and 3-1 at home late last month.
Palace probably won’t get embroiled in a relegation battle, although they are just eight points off the relegation zone. Two more wins will likely see them over the line, but confidence appears to be ebbing away and they will do well to finish in the top half of the table.
In fairness to Palace, manager Alan Pardew has not been able to field a fully-fit side and the collective absences, at various times, of Yannick Bolaise, Dwight Gayle, Yohan Cabaye and Conor Wickham has been instrumental in their tailspin, which reached a new low with a 2-1 home defeat by Watford last weekend.
They are all creative players and it is in the final third where they have struggled, scoring just six goals in their last 10 games. Though the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor last month may address the problem, he had been without a club since September and still lacks sharpness.
Tottenham have lost only three times this term and have won their last five league games, putting them on the brink of their first title since 1961.
Their young side appear to be playing for each other and, as similarly apparent at fellow title contenders Leicester, there is a real camaraderie which appears to be lacking at the two Manchester clubs.
There are goals right throughout the team – Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamella have all been on the scoresheet in recent weeks – and Spurs have been fortunate with injuries.
Spurs should win this, but Palace gave them a fright at Selhurst Park – they were the better team for long periods – and it would not surprise us if they earned a replay. [SM]
Since announcing Pep Guardiola’s summer arrival, Manchester City (3.50) have really struggled for form. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won just three of their last six games, and looked well below-par in their home defeat to Tottenham last weekend. That loss has all but ended City’s league title challenge and we expect them to now prioritize all three of the cup competitions that they are competing in.
It has been a different story for Chelsea (2.10) who are still unbeaten since Guus Hiddink took over at the club. The Blues were rampant in their 5-1 win over struggling Newcastle last weekend, finding themselves 3-0 up after just 17 minutes.
It hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for Pedro since arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer. The tricky winger had a wonderful spell at previous club Barcelona, scoring 99 times and winning countless trophies. However, he has struggled to adapt with the more physical side of the English game, and was often left on the touchline by Jose Mourinho.
However, like many of the current playing stuff, Pedro has looked like a totally different player since Mourinho’s departure in December, and seems to be playing with much more confidence under Guus Hiddink. The Spanish international was instrumental in last week’s thrashing of Newcastle, scoring twice and linking up with Diego Costa effectively on numerous occasions.
These two sides are among the most free-scoring in the Premier League, sharing an impressive 86 goals between them so far this season.
It is also worth noting that in four of their last seven meetings, both sides have managed to get on the scoresheet.
We can’t split these two and see this one going to a replay after a scoring draw. [CC]
Shrewsbury (12.00) manager Micky Mellon has sought the advice of MyClub Brand Ambassador Sam Allardyce on just how he should prepare for this tie. Big Sam’s Sunderland side downed Manchester United (1.29) at the weekend and were good value for their 2-1 win. Mellon used to play under Allardyce at Blackpool in the mid-nineties.
“I’ll speak to Big Sam and see what his plan was, can see if there is any help he can give us,” said Mellon.
The Shrews are currently 19th in League One and welcome Louis van Gaal’s side to New Meadow on Monday. They have beaten Gainsborough, Grimsby, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday to earn their shot at the Premier League side.
United sit fifth in the Premier League table, six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City and 12 behind leaders Leicester City. While the Europa League offers another chance of silverware (currently 9/1), the F.A. Cup would appear to be their best hope of a pot (they are 9/2 second-favourites behind Arsenal).
Managerial uncertainty can undoubtedly unsettle a side, but United have not been playing with much fluency or flair all season and it can only be a matter of time before a new man takes charge.
It is unlikely that he will go before the end of the season, though. It is his last job in management and while United are in a stalemate over his position, van Gall is unlikely to walk away as he would lose a small fortune.
Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, who brought him in, has been a staunch supporter and is unlikely to wield the axe. Van Gaal is fully aware that, as Arsenal have found, a successful run in a knockout tournament can pave the way for a title challenge.
While the speculation over the lame-duck head coach swirls, those out on the pitch need a close look in the mirror. Memphis Depay’s failure to adapt to the English game appear to have as much to do with his attitude as anything else, if you believe what you read.
On the other hand, he is an instinctive player, and it may just be that he is restricted in van Gaal’s system. Depay has time on his side, but the jury is most definitely out at the moment.
United struggled to get past Sheffield United and Derby County to reach the Fifth round, but the odds suggest they should not have too much trouble putting the Shrews to the sword. This should be an easy away win. [SM]
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We look to continue our good run with our football selections and, complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, take a glance at some of the big matches in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup this weekend…
DERBY v MAN UTD
You want to know what really happened to Jurgen Klopp’s glasses – they were stolen by Louis van Gaal’s minion. Klopp appears to understand that square pegs fit in square holes.
One example: Brendan Rodgers insisted Emre Can was a defender and after the Liverpool boss was replaced by Klopp, the German quickly saw that the talented youngster should be playing in a more nature midfield role.
You can see it and we can see it, but it appears that Manchester United (1.95) manager Van Gaal has a bit of trouble when it comes to Marouane Fellaini, who is many things, but central midfielder is not one of them. The embattled Dutchman needs the same vision as Klopp if he is to remain in his position.
The return of Bastian Schweinsteiger would certainly help United. He has been missing for a few weeks, but he should be fit to face Championship side Derby in the first of the FA Cup Fourth Round ties on Friday.
Both teams suffered losses last time. United slumped to an eighth defeat of the season, going down 1-0 at home to Southampton and worryingly failing to register a worthwhile chance throughout.
Derby (4.00) were woeful as they lost 4-1 at Burnley on Monday night, leaving them fifth in the table.
It is natural that some players would not want to risk injury before such a big game and although taking nothing away from in-form Burnley, it was still a performance devoid of confidence form Paul Clement’s side.
Derby have lost just twice at home in 14 outings this season but have managed just two wins over United in their last 15 meetings and two home wins over the Red Devils’ last 17 visits.
Goals are usually on the menu – eight of the last 11 meetings yielded three goals or more and we see that more likely than not this time.
United have drawn on five of their last nine trips to Derby but plenty points to United bouncing back. [SM]
VERDICT: DERBY 1 MAN UTD 3 @ 17.00
BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.20
COLCHESTER v TOTTENHAM
Tottenham (1.40) really are in a rich vein of form of late. The North Londoners have only lost in one of their last nine games and battled to a vital away win at Crystal Palace last weekend after a goal-of-the-season contender from Dele Alli.
Their Fourth Round opponents Colchester (8.00) are having a tough time of it. The League One strugglers have only managed to win once in their last nine games – a victory against Charlton in the last round of this competition.
Harry Kane is a man in form. The prolific England striker has scored 13 league goals so far this season, which is made even more impressive when you consider his slow start to the season. If risked, we expect Kane to take advantage of a Colchester defence that has leaked a staggering 65 league goals already this season – making him a great first goal-scorer selection, especially with the Dubble Bubble/Hat-Trick Fan-Tastic offer available with My Club Betting.
As well as having the worst defensive record in League One, Colchester are also a side struggling for goals. The U’s have only scored 36 league goals this season, netting just three times in their last six League One games.
That stat, coupled with Tottenham’s fantastic defensive record leads us to believe that this will be comfortable for the visitors and we fancy them to win without conceding here. [CC]
VERDICT: COLCHESTER 0 TOTTENHAM 2 @ 7.00
BEST BET: TOTTENHAM WIN TO NIL @ 2.30
ARSENAL v BURNLEY
Arsenal (1.40) have really struggled for form since beating Sunderland in the last round. Arsene Wenger’s men followed their 3-1 home win in early January with draws against Liverpool and Stoke before losing at home to bitter rivals Chelsea last time.
Burnley (8.00) are currently the in-form side in the Championship. Sean Dyche’s side find themselves just one place below the automatic promotion positions after their rampant 4-1 win over Derby on Monday evening.
Alexis Sanchez returned to the Arsenal first team against Chelsea on Sunday. The influential Chilean winger spent more than two months on the side line with a hamstring injury and, in truth, Arsenal don’t look the same without him in the side. Sanchez offers a pacy, direct threat, favouring long dribbles over sideways passing, which is something the Gunners were really lacking in his absence.
Burnley reached the Fourth Round after an impressive away win against league rivals Middleborough. Wingers George Boyd and Michael Kightly have looked particularly threatening this season, linking successfully with top scorer Andre Gray on numerous occasions since his arrival in the summer.
Both sides are among the highest scorers in their respective leagues and we see this being reflected in Saturday’s score line.
We fancy a high scoring home win at The Emirates. [CC]
VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 BURNLEY 1 @ 11.00
BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70
ASTON VILLA v MAN CITY
Remi Garde’s first game in charge of Aston Villa (5.25) saw his side battle to a home draw against Saturday’s opponents. However, it has all been downhill since then for the former Lyon boss. Villa are rock bottom of the Premier League after winning only two league games all season.
Manchester City (1.67) have recovered from a mid-season blip and now find themselves within touching distance of league leaders Leicester. City are the most prolific club in England’s top division, scoring 45 league goals already this season.
In the last round, Villa needed a replay to overcome Wycombe Wanderers – a side THREE divisions below them. Although the Midlands club eventually ran out 2-0 winners in the replay, they were far from convincing. Villa needed two goals in the last 15 minutes to overcome their lower league opponents after looking nervy throughout the game.
Kevin De Bruyne has settled back into English football seamlessly. The former Chelsea midfielder arrived from Wolfsburg for £55m in the summer and has made an instant impact at his new club. The Belgian international has scored five times and made nine assists since arriving, becoming a huge favourite amongst the City faithful.
Villa have won just one of the last seven meeting between these sides and, in truth, we see City being too strong again on Saturday. [CC]
VERDICT: ASTON VILLA 0 MAN CITY 2 @ 7.50
BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.67
PORTSMOUTH v BOURNEMOUTH
These two South Coast sides are separated by just 50 miles and Saturday’s game will be their first meeting since the Cherries 1-0 League Cup win back in 2013.
Past winners Portsmouth (2.88) are flying high in League Two at the moment and caused arguably the biggest shock of the Third Round by beating Championship side Ipswich a week ago.
Bournemouth (2.40) will be prioritising Premier League survival, so we really wouldn’t be surprised to see changes from Eddie Howe on Saturday.
Portsmouth striker Matt Tubbs spent much of his career with Saturday’s opponents. The striker started his career at hometown club, before leaving to make his name at Crawley Town. Tubbs then returned to Bournemouth in 2012 to help the club win promotion to League One.
Another man who will be facing his former side in this tie is Eddie Howe. Harry Redknapp purchased the now Bournemouth boss for £400,000 in 2002. However, his spell at the club ended unsuccessfully. Howe made just two league appearances for Pompey, and after two loan spells away from the club, Howe returned to Bournemouth in 2004.
Portsmouth have scored in four of their last five games, while Bournemouth have scored in all of their last four.
Due to the Bournemouth’s probable squad rotation, we can’t split these two and see a scoring draw being played out at Fratton Park on Saturday. [CC]
VERDICT: PORTSMOUTH 1 BOURNEMOUTH 1 @ 6.00
BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.80
MK DONS v CHELSEA
Guus Hiddink is doing a fine job, with Chelsea (1.30) still unbeaten since his arrival at the club. The Blues earned a vital win away at Arsenal last weekend – however, they did face 10 men for the majority of the game after an early Per Mertesacker sending off.
MK Dons (9.50) are hovering above the relegation zone in their inaugural Championship campaign, after winning just seven league games so far. This will be the first ever meeting between the two clubs, although Chelsea did do battle with Wimbledon and the ‘Crazy Gang’ on numerous occasions.
Diego Costa has looked like a man possessed since Jose Mourinho left the club in December. After struggling for goals in the early part of the season, Costa has turned things around under the guidance of Hiddink. The Brazilian-born, Spanish international has netted in four of his last five appearances and was particularly impressive in their game against Arsenal last time out.
The Dons needed a replay to overcome League Two side Northampton Town in the last round, and in truth Chelsea just look too strong for the hosts.
Everything points to a comfortable away win here. [CC]
VERDICT: MK DONS 0 CHELSEA 2 @ 6.50
BEST BET: CHELSEA/CHELSEA (HT/FT) @ 1.90
NOTTM FOREST v WATFORD
This is one of the more intriguing ties of the Fourth Round, with both sides going well in the Championship and Premier League respectively.
Forest (2.87) are toddling along in 11th place, eight points off the play-off places, having gone on a 12-match unbeaten run that included a 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers in the Third Round. They have not been beaten since November 21 when losing 2-1 at Brentford.
Watford (2.50) have enjoyed more highs than lows since returning to the top flight, although they have suffered a dip in form in recent weeks, going five league games without a win before beating Newcastle 2-1 at home last weekend. Coincidentally, they put Newcastle out of the FA Cup in the last round, having also turned them over in the reverse League fixture in September.
Watford have looked tired in recent weeks and it is conceivable that their tough Christmas period, playing the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City within the space of eight days, was a major reason for the dip in form.
Watford have bought reinforcements since, with Nordin Amrabat arriving from Malaga for £6m and goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon arriving from Sunderland (2.5) land as cover for Heurelho Gomes. They may well bring in a central midfielder before the transfer window closes on Monday.
Games between these two have been evenly split in recent years, with each winning five times and drawing five times. Watford have lost just three of their last 12 visits to the City Ground, however, and they should be good enough to earn a replay. [SM]
VERDICT: NOTTM FOREST 1 WATFORD 1 @ 6.00
BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SORE @ 1.91
LIVERPOOL v WEST HAM
With just one win at Anfield since 1963 and seeking an unprecedented third successive win against Liverpool, the odds are stacked against West Ham in their FA Cup Fourth Round clash. Or they should be. The bookies, strangely, think otherwise.
True, the Hammers have won both League meetings this season, beating them 3-0 at Anfield and 2-0 at Upton Park. But Liverpool are on a high following their dramatic 5-4 win at Norwich – celebrated as though it was a Cup final – and reaching the League Cup final in midweek (on penalties… surprise, surprise!).
Defensively Liverpool (2.00) look shaky and Jurgen Klopp will doubtless but reinforcements in the summer, but going forward they are always a threat and this looks a game which will be all about the first goal. If Liverpool get their noses in front, they won’t look back. If West Ham (3.80) score, they can punish the Reds on the break.
Liverpool look a good bet to score the first goal at 1.60 and that is a massive price. West Ham, who lost on penalties to Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup Final, have failed to score in four of their last six trips to Anfield.
Despite their good early-season from, which brought them victories at Manchester City, Liverpool Arsenal and Crystal Palace, West Ham have won one of their last seven away games since October 17 and they were under fire for long periods before beating Bournemouth 3-1 on January 12.
West Ham have injury problems up front and will again be without Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll. They are attempting to bring in a striker on loan, as Nikica Jelavic can no longer be considered an effective forward at this level and he will likely be shipped out after the season is over.
Liverpool may be mentally fatigued after two emotionally-draining back-to-back games, but they are fantastic value to beat the Hammers. In fact, we’d go so far as saying they are the best bet of the weekend. [SM]
VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 3 WEST HAM 0 @ 13.00
BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN 2.00
CRYSTAL PALACE v STOKE
Despite losing 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace (2.15) and failing to win for the sixth successive League game last weekend, they played well. Aside from two wonder goals, they gave as good as they got and were unlucky not to take all three points.
Stoke (3.60) cannot play anywhere near as poorly as they did in losing 3-0 at Leicester last weekend, where they rested a few players as they had the League Cup semi-final second leg at Liverpool just a few days after that.
The loss of Ryan Shawcross to injury is a major blow to the Potters. He is the lynch-pin in defence and will miss the next few weeks with a back injury. Since returning from surgery on his back in October, Stoke have lost only five times in all competitions.
The good news is that midfielder Geoff Cameron (ankle) may return after missing last Saturday’s defeat and the midweek League Cup trip to Anfield.
Palace are struggling for goals, particularly from their strikers. In fact, they have benefitted from own goals as much as they have from their marksman, who have scored a total of one goal between them in the Premier League. They are also suddenly leaking goals, having conceded 11 in their four Premier League games this year, but netting only once (and that was an own goal against Spurs).
Stoke have conceded two or more goals in four of their last five Premier League road games, but they have lost just once on their last five trips to Selhurst Park.
This all-Premier League tie is one of the more attractive games of the weekend and with Palace due to win again and Stoke suffering an emotional let-down after their exploits at Anfield on Tuesday, we take the hosts to sneak it. [SM]
VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 2 STOKE 1 @ 9.00
BEST BET: PALACE TO SCORE FIRST @ 1.83
CARLISLE v EVERTON
Carlisle (6.50) returned home to Brunton Park last week, having re-laid the pitch following the horrendous flooding in Cumbria. The hosts were held 1-1 by York on their first match on home soil for two months.
The Blues have been in enforced exile after the floods caused by Storm Desmond in November left their ground unplayable, with United having to stage ‘home’ matches at Blackburn, Preston and Blackpool.
Carlisle have done remarkably well, given their circumstances. Currently, they sit tenth in League Two, just three points outside the playoff places.
Everton (1.44) have been disappointing. They appear to lack a bit of backbone, having lost frequently from winning positions and are giving away too many silly goals.
They were booed off at half-time and again at the final whistle in their 2-1 home defeat by Swansea and they have conceded 22 goals in 12 games Goodison Park. That defeat was the worst kind of preparation for their midweek League Cup semi-final trip to Manchester City.
But despite the pressure they are under at home, they may play with a little more freedom at Brunton Park.
Carlisle have won two of their three previous meetings, but the last time the pair met was in the FA Cup in 2010 and Everton ran out 3-1 winners at Goodison.
This has the potential to be one of the shocks of the round – Particularly after Everton’s draining Midweek League Cup semi-final second leg at Manchester City – but we see the visitors having too much class and they should go through confortably enough with Romelu Lukaku a fair bet to score first.
Don’t forget, if he scores again, you can take advantage of our Dubble-Bubble offer, where you get double the odds if he scores a second. [SM]
VERDICT: CARLISLE 1 EVERTON 2 @ 8.50
BEST BET: HT/FT = DRAW/EVERTON @ 4.33
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We look to continue our good run with our FA Cup selections and, complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, take a glance at the big matches and potential giant-killing games this weekend…
EXETER CITY v LIVERPOOL
Jürgen Klopp has been bought back down to earth with a bang after a terrific start to life in the Premier League. Liverpool (1.30) were shocking in their recent losses to Watford and West Ham, with many expecting Klopp to strengthen significantly in the transfer window.
Christian Benteke had a decent festive period, scoring in successive games against Leicester and Sunderland. Despite the Belgian’s apparent goal threat, his manager still seems unsure of his ability, often favouring a ‘false nine’ setup with Roberto Firmino in his place.
Exeter City (9.50) are in dreadful form and look to be facing a battle to stay in the Football League this season. The League Two side are coming off four straight losses – conceding a staggering 10 goals in the process.
Finding the net has also been a massive problem for the Grecians, who have only scored once in their last three games.
Everything points to a routine away win here. [CC]
VERDICT: EXETER 0 LIVERPOOL 3 @ 7.50
BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN TO NIL @ 2.00
WYCOMBE v ASTON VILLA
Aston Villa (2.10) look almost certain to be relegated from the Premier League this season, with manager Remi Garde still winless since taking over in early November.
On the other hand, Wycombe Wanderers (3.50) are having a fine time of it. Gareth Ainsworth’s men are among the strongest League Two promotion candidates, losing just once in their last six games.
Conceding goals has been a huge problem for Villa so far this season. The Midlanders have shipped 37 league goals already, with many regularly pointing the finger at the club’s two first choice full backs. In truth, neither Alan Hutton or Leandro Bacuna have the adequate defensive abilities required for a top level full back and that has been evident so far this season.
Many will forecast a giant killing at Adams Park on Saturday lunchtime, but we see a break from the league being a welcome distraction for Garde.
We fancy a long awaited win for the away side here. [CC]
VERDICT: WYCOMBE 0 ASTON VILLA 1 @ 7.00
BEST BET: ASTON VILLA TO WIN @ 2.10
ARSENAL v SUNDERLAND
Holders Arsenal (1.22) have won the FA Cup on successive occasions and are many people’s favourites to do the same again this year. Arsene Wenger’s men are in fine form and five wins in their last six games has seen them rise to the top of the Premier League standings.
Sam Allardyce had a remarkably tough task on his hands when he took over at the Stadium of Light earlier this season. Sunderland (12.00) may still be in relegation trouble, but there is now real hope surrounding the club after their gritty win over fellow battlers Aston Villa last week.
Mesut Ozil looks to be the Player of the Year front-runner, having already assisted on 16 occasions this season – which is double the number recorded by Kevin De Bruyne, who is in second place in the assist rankings.
There is no hiding from the fact that both Sunderland and Big Sam have a wretched record away at Arsenal over the years.
The two sides last met at The Emirates back in early December, where Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners. We fancy a repeat of that score line on Saturday afternoon. [CC]
VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 SUNDERLAND 1 @ 11.00
BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.55
SOUTHAMPTON v CRYSTAL PALACE
Southampton (1.80) are a side in freefall. Ronald Koeman’s side may have won 4-0 against Arsenal on Boxing Day, however the Saints have lost a staggering seven of their last nine games in all competitions.
Crystal Palace (4.50) were comfortably beaten at home by Chelsea last weekend, however they are still in a remarkably strong league position with less than half the season to play.
Sadio Mane was dropped for last weekend’s game at Norwich after a breach of club discipline, fuelling speculation of a move north to Manchester United. The same game saw a dismissal for Victor Wanyama, meaning the imposing Kenyan international will miss Saturday’s Cup tie.
Scoring goals has been a huge issue for these two club’s lately – despite Southampton’s impressive Boxing Day result. The sides have shared just nine goals in their last five games and both are among the lowest scorers in the Premier League.
These two sides met at St Mary’s at the same stage last season, where Palace claimed an impressive 2-3 victory.
We see no value in the host’s price and fancy Palace to get at least a draw here in a low scoring encounter. [CC]
VERDICT: SOTON 0 PALACE 0 @ 9.00
BEST BET: PALACE OR DRAW (DC) @ 1.85
TOTTENHAM v LEICESTER
These two sides are both among the star performers in England so far this season.
Tottenham (1.70) have opted for youth during this campaign, with the form of Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli making them strong contenders for a top four position.
Leicester (4.70) are without a win in their last three games, but are continuing to surprise everyone by occupying second place in the Premier League with less than half the campaign remaining.
Harry Kane had a loan spell at The King Power Stadium back in 2013. The England international netted three times in the last meeting between the sides at White Hart Lane and we fully expect Kane to be on the scoresheet again on Sunday.
The goals have dried up for Leicester, who haven’t scored in any of their last three games. Riyad Mahrez has scored 13 league goals this season, but the Algerian’s missed penalty against Bournemouth last weekend eventually cost his side a crucial three points.
That said, both sides have scored in each of the last 10 meetings between these sides and we expect the same to happen at White Hart Lane on Sunday. [CC]
VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 2 LEICESTER 1 @ 8.00
BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.80
MAN UTD v SHEFF UTD
Manchester United’s (1.29) dull performances have been rightly criticised, although Wayne Rooney has been the subject of a few unwarranted jibes. Yet it is amazing what a goal will do for confidence.
Rooney’s class shone through in their 2-0 Premier League win over struggling Swansea and his deft flicked second goal was sublime.
United looked a little sharper and played with more freedom than of late against the Swans, who had a few chances themselves to steal at least a point.
However, they still move the ball too slowly, allowing opponents to keep their shape and the lack of pace is a shortcoming that Luis van Gaal will have to address if he is to remain in charge.
Sheffield United (10.00) are the visitors to Old Trafford for the FA Cup Third Round tie. The Blades currently sit eighth in League One 14 points off the automatic promotion places and four points adrift of the playoff places.
The Blades have not been in bad form of late, winning their last three, before falling 3-2 at home to Peterborough last weekend.
However, Man Utd have won 13 of the last 15 meetings with the Blades and have scored at least twice in their last six meetings at Old Trafford. Over 2.5 total goals at 1.73 is our selection. [SM]
VERDICT: MAN UTD 3 SHEFF UTD 0 @ 7.00
BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.73
OXFORD UTD v SWANSEA
When the TV executives picked this game to be shown, they had in mind a potential giant-killing.
Premier League Swansea (1.95) are struggling. Only cast adrift Aston Villa have scored fewer than Swansea’s 17 in 20 games and they are hovering just two points above the drop zone.
Having jettisoned manager Garry Monk, it is not going to be easy to attract quality in the January transfer window with a caretaker manager in charge. Main striker Bafetimbi Gomis is clearly struggling for confidence and although Alan Curtis has somewhat stabilised the ship, managerial uncertainty means that the Welsh side may well remain in a dog-fight until the end of the season.
Michael Appleton’s Oxford United (3.80) are in the midst of a promotion charge in League Two, currently sitting in third place, having lost just three of their 25 games (just one of those defeats coming at home).
Swansea will have to rein in Oxford’s lively marksmen Leon Sercombe (10 goals this season) and Kemar Roofe (nine), who were both on the scoresheet in a come-from-behind 4-2 win over managerless Notts County last weekend.
The Swans should not have too much trouble with the pretenders, though. We see them going through without the need of a replay. [SM]
VERDICT: OXFORD UTD 1 SWANSEA 3 @ 15.00
BEST BET: SWANSEA TO WIN @ 1.95
HULL v BRIGHTON
Brighton will not fancy their trip to fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Hull City and the hosts are a backable price to turn over the Seagulls.
Brighton have failed to win any of their last four trips to the KC Stadium – losing their last three – and fell here 2-1 in last season’s competition, having been held to a replay at the Amex.
There are rarely many goals when these two meet – just four of the last 17 clashes have yielded more than 2.5 goals.
And Brighton’s league form has dipped in recent weeks. They have not won in their last six games and have lost three of their last four, failing to score in any of those games. The barren run in front of goal stretches to six hours and 35 minutes.
One wonders how much the Seagulls will want to distraction of a Cup run when they are a place behind Hull in fourth and out of form, but they are unbeaten away from home.
We take Steve Bruce’s side to take advantage of Brighton’s downturn and make it through to the Fourth Round. [SM]
VERDICT: HULL 2 BRIGHTON 0 @ 7.50
BEST BET: HULL TO WIN @ 1.95
CARDIFF v SHREWSBURY
Cardiff City (1.75) are a confident pick to see off League One strugglers Shrewsbury (4.50) on Sunday evening.
The Shrews are just a point above the relegation zone, having lost 13 of their 25 league games and were thumped 7-1 by Chesterfield last weekend.
Micky Mellon’s side were hampered by the loss of Anthony Gerrard and Abu Ogogo to hamstring injuries early on, and left plenty of space ‘between the lines’ of midfield and defence, which was exploited.
Cardiff, who sit four places off the Championship playoff places in ninth, have won the last four competitive meetings by two clear goals or more. They have lost just two of their last eight league games and have only failed to score once in that span.
Russell Slade’s side will miss striker Kenwyne Jones, who is likely to depart for financial reasons in the next week or so, but Joe Mason’s goal against Blackburn will have done his confidence a power of good and they created plenty of chances against Rovers. We simply see the odds too big to ignore and take the Bluebirds for a home win. [SM]
VERDICT: CARDIFF 3 SHREWSBURY 0 @ 13.00
VERDICT: CARDIFF TO WIN @ 1.75
WEST HAM v WOLVES
Those looking for an FA Cup upset could do a lot worse than looking at this fixture, which pits Premier League West Ham (1.75) against Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers (4.75).
The Hammers have not beaten Wolves in back-to-back meetings since 1964 and have won just four of the last 10 meetings with them at the Boleyn (losing twice).
Despite beating Liverpool 2-0 to do the double over them, Slaven Bilic’s team have struggled for goals in recent weeks and the balance of the side has not looked good without Dimitri Payet, who is came off the bench against Liverpool following a long-term injury.
With Diafra Sakho and Manuel Lanzini ruled out, striking options are limited to Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia, who is still to find his form having also returned from injury.
Wolves are in fine form. Kenny Jackett’s side clinched their third consecutive victory with a 1-0 win at Brighton on New Year’s Day. It was also their third successive clean sheet.
We see this as a tight encounter with goals at a premium. We reckon Wolves will be good for a replay at least, as the Hammers suffer an emotional let-down after their big win over Liverpool.
VERDICT: WEST HAM 1 WOLVES 1 @ 6.50
BEST BET: WOLVES OR DRAW @ 1.91
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Bradford (Odds: 2.50) continue to defy the odds. This will be their seventh game in this season’s competition and they have managed to score at least twice in all of them.
It is a little obscure to say this will be their hardest test, having just disposed of one Championship and two Premier League sides. There was no fluke in beating both Sunderland and Chelsea either – each were defeated by two clear goals.
The Bantams have scored 19 goals in those seven FA Cup games (including one replay) and have won all three of their ties played at Valley Parade.
They are no strangers to success in knockout football. Winners of the old trophy in 1911, two years ago City became the first club from the fourth tier of English football since Rochdale in 1962 to reach the League Cup Final, and the first fourth-tier club to ever reach a major Wembley Cup Final. They defeated three top-tier teams on the way, too.
Reading (2.76) have beaten three Championship sides so far, winning at Huddersfield, Cardiff and Derby, all by the odd goal.
Oddly, given their road form, the Royals are not well equipped to counter-attack, as they seem to lack pace up front.
Steve Clarke’s side have been misfiring in front of goal and their 3-0 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest last weekend made it the seventh time in their last nine games at the Madjeski Stadium in which they have failed to register.
They have also lost four of their last six in the Championship and scored just two goals in that period.
Reading have a fair record at Valley Parade, however, winning two and drawing one of their five previous visits.
Phil Parkinson’s side have also been struggling in recent weeks, winning just three of their last 10 in League One, which makes this a remarkably tight game to call, perhaps the hardest of the quartet of quarter-finals.
Four of the last 10 meetings were drawn and after a cagey opening, we reckon there could be a replay in the offing and are happy to take the hosts on.
West Brom (Odds: 2.78) have certainly turned the corner since the arrival of Tony Pulis and despite a 2-1 reverse at Aston Villa (2.60) in the Premier League on Tuesday evening, they look sure to stay clear of the relegation dogfight.
Villa’s first win in 12 league games was far from pretty, but the last-minute penalty ended a run of six consecutive defeats and saw them jump out of the bottom three. They had more shots on target (eight) than in any Premier League since May 2014 (nine against Hull).
Not that they are out of the woods yet, for Tim Sherwood’s side still have to face the likes of Swansea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City, West Ham and Southampton.
Realistically, they need to get something from their six-pointers with Sunderland, QPR, Everton and Burnley to remain in the top flight.
The lack of goals in the side is troubling, however. They have managed just 16 in the league and unless something drastic happens, the relegation plughole that they have been circling for the past three seasons will finally swallow them.
West Brom, who have lost two of their last nine in the league to surge up to mid-table safety, walloped West Ham 4-0 in the fifth round and it could have been much worse for the Hammers.
There are usually a few goals when these two meet. Tuesday’s clash was the tenth in 12 games in which both sides scored. It is 1.93 for both teams to net. That sort of percentage is tough to go against, but we don’t totally trust Villa’s prowess up front and would side with the 1.86 for one or other to draw a blank.
West Brom barely created a chance in the first half on Tuesday – they have managed just nine goals in the last 11 league games.
Nine of the last 12 meetings have seen three or more goals scored in total and it is 2.24 for three or more goals to be scored. It is a risk to go with that trend as well.
In Albion’s last 10 games, there have been three or more goals scored in just four of them. There has been three or more goals scored in five of Villa’s last 14 games in League and Cup.
Nine of the last 19 of these Midlands derby meetings were drawn and while Sherwood would not fancy an added distraction, the winners of this tie will be third favourites to lift the trophy at worst.
And with lower-league opposition contesting one of the four ties, Wembley is a distinct possibility.
Villa may have taken the spoils on Tuesday, but they were fortunate and we take West Brom to avenge that defeat.
Liverpool (Odds: 1.30) have managed to remain unbeaten in their last 12 Premier League games and have an easy-looking task in reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup.
Blackburn (10.00) have drawn three of their last five in the Championship and only Charlton have drawn more games (15) than Rovers’ 12. The draw is on offer at 5.30. They are well off the playoff pace but sit comfortably in tenth place, so are free from relegation fears.
Rovers have done remarkably well to see off Premier League opposition in Swansea (3-1) and Stoke City (4-1) at Ewood Park, yet Gary Bowyer’s side face an uphill battle at Anfield, which has once again started to become a fortress.
Blackburn have failed to win in each of their last 16 visits and they have won just four of their 18 games away from Ewood Park in the Championship this season.
They have also averaged just over a goal a game on the road, netting 19 times, so it is arguable they will breach the Reds’ rear-guard. We do, however, give them the benefit of the doubt and recent meetings offer a little credence to that punting strategy, as the last five clashes saw both sides score. It is 2.06 for both teams to net, which looks a little on the large side.
Liverpool are on a roll and Brendan Rodgers’ side would like nothing better than to send Steven Gerrard on his way to the States with an FA Cup winners’ medal. They have certainly had the luck of the draw.
Manchester United (Odds: 2.32) are playing some unusually unattractive football and they are struggling to adapt to Louis van Gaal’s ‘system’ – if we can loosely term it as such.
Yet they keep winning, boring the opposition into submission.
They struggled mightily to break down Newcastle on Wednesday evening, but were let off the hook by some shoddy defending in stealing a 1-0 win to maintain their charge towards the Champions League places.
They have lost just two of their last 18 league games but the acid test for Van Gaal’s men will come in the next few weeks, as they still have to face Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Those key games will determine theirs – and possibly Van Gaal’s – Premier League fate.
Five draws in their first eight league games gave Arsenal (2.84) a mountain to climb, but they have managed to win nine of their last 11 to keep themselves firmly in contention for a lucrative top four spot.
Whoever wins this tie should become favourite to lift the old trophy, but Arsenal’s record against United is not a good one. They have won just one of the last 15 meetings and United have triumphed in 11 of those games.
Arsene Wenger’s side have lost on their last six visits to Old Trafford and United have remained unbeaten against the Gunners in the last 10 meetings at home.
History points to a United win, but this tie looks as though it will need a replay to be resolved. We go for a low-scoring draw (3.30).
West Brom (odds: 2.36) eased their relegation worries with a fine 2-0 win at home to Swansea on Wednesday. The Baggies are now four points clear of the drop zone and have a better goal difference than most clubs in the dogfight, so Tony Pulis’s side will look to attack the FA Cup with a weight off their mind.
West Ham (2.90) probably need one more win to be certain of retaining their Premier League status for their final season at Upton Park before a move to the Olympic Stadium.
They have won just one of their last six League games, having drawn 0-0 at Southampton on Wednesday. On the positive side, their three losses in the last 13 league games came against Chelsea, Arsenal and bogey side Liverpool.
Albion have won two of the last 13 meetings and the Hammers have lost just two of their last nine trips to The Hawthorns.
These two sides could cancel each other out again, as they have done on six of the last nine meetings (the draw is 3.20). But if there is to be a mild shock in the Fifth round, it could come here.
The Baggies are playing with new-found confidence under Pulis and West Ham’s injury problems in defence leaves them vulnerable.
Blackburn Rovers (Odds 2.86) have won the FA Cup on no fewer than six occasions.
However, five of those successes came in the 1800s, their last coming in 1928, and they last reached the final in 1960. Could this be the year they return to Wembley?
Rovers dispatched Premier League Swansea in the last round and they again face top-flight opposition in the shape of Stoke (2.36), who have won their last five competitive meetings.
Rovers may be 10 points off the play-off places in the Championship, but they have one of the better home records in the division, having lost just three of their 15 games at Ewood Park.
However, they have managed to beat Stoke just once in the last 13 meetings.
Goals are often hard to come by when these two meet – one or other has failed to score in seven of the last nine meetings – but lanky Peter Crouch will invariably cause plenty of problems.
We can see Blackburn proving a tough nut to crack and while Stoke have the quality to prise open the Rovers’ defence, this may need a second game to settle it. The odds for the draw are 3.20.
An all-Championship clash sees high-flying Derby (odds: 1.73) face Reading, who are unbeaten in their last three away from home.
Under Steve McClaren, Derby have one of the best home records in the division, having lost just two of their 15 games (winning nine of them). Only Norwich and Watford have scored more goals than the 34 they have bagged in the league at Pride Park.
Reading have lost their last two matches to the Rams, but have never dropped tree on the trot, so trend-wonks will look at the 2.04 available on the Double Chance market see Reading and the Draw as good value.
Derby’s overall record against the Royals is pretty ordinary – they have won seven of the last 26 meetings and lost 10 of the last 15 clashes.
Yet for all their decent road form of late, Reading (4.70) have generally been weak travellers this season, winning just three of their 15 away games in the league and drawing four. That means there is a better than 50% chance they will succumb to the Rams.
Liverpool (odds: 2.00) have been in blistering form, with just two defeats in their last 21 games in all competitions since losing 3-1 at Palace in November.
Palace (3.55) have won five of seven matches in all competitions since Alan Pardew’s arrival, losing just once, and have won three of their last four clashes with the Reds at Selhurst Park.
Palace are something of a bogey side for Liverpool, who have failed to win any of their last four meetings in South London.
Both sides have scored in six of the last seven meetings and it is 1.80 that they do so again.
Seven of the last eight meetings yielded three goals or more and it is 1.91 for that to occur this time.
Pardew has instilled belief in his squad and while they are starting to climb away from the relegation zone (five points clear after their all-too-predictable 1-1 draw with Newcastle in midweek), an equally confident Liverpool should be too strong.
Paul Lambert’s tenure at Villa Park came to an end on Wednesday, just hours after Aston Villa (odds: 2.40) slipped into the Premier League relegation zone after an abject 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Hull City.
It was their 10th league game without a win and they have managed just 12 league goals all season from 25 games – the lowest in Premier League history. In truth, Villa have been circling the relegation plug-hole for the last three seasons in which they have played 139 league games and scored just 135 goals.
The failure is not with Lambert, whose hands have been financially tied, but with owner Randy Lerner, who looks certain to sell up in the summer.
Villa have a fair squad and they should ease their way out of trouble.
And if the FA Cup is nice distraction for Villa fans, it is also the case for embattled Leicester (2.86) manager Nigel Pearson, whose side are rock-bottom of the Premier League and are five points adrift of safety.
The Foxes are, at least, still creating plenty of chances and it is frustrating Pearson that they are not taking them.
Leicester have had a fair amount of success in recent times against Villa, who have won just four of the last 21 meetings.
Lambert’s departure could have a galvanising effect on the hosts. Equally, a lack of leadership on the pitch could see heads drop, and confidence only comes with goals.
Ten of the last 21 meetings were drawn (including seven of the last 15) and the odds for a draw are consequently restrictive at 3.15.
We take a rare and narrow Villa win with Christain Benteke or Andreas Weimann perhaps being the hero.
League One outfit Bradford City (3.75), the lowest-ranked side left in the FA Cup, caused one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history when coming from two goals down to beat Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in round four.
Though eighth in the league and just a point off the play-off zone, they have scored goals for fun in the Cup this season, netting 17 times in their five matches.
The Bantams’ home form has not been stellar, however. They have won just five of their 15 league games.
Sunderland (2.00) are lurching towards the Championship. They are just two points off the Premier League relegation zone and have won just four league games this season. The draw specialists of the top flight – 12 of their 25 games has ended in stalemate – Sunderland’s road form has not been bad at all. Gus Poyet’s side have lost just four of their 12 road games.
This will be the first meeting since 2003, but in 12 of the previous 13 meetings, one or other side has failed to score. It is worth noting that four of the last six clashes yielded three or more goals and while Sunderland have a penchant for a stalemate (the draw is available at 3.15), we think the visitors are worth chancing to win by the odd goal in threeand are the best outright bet of the day at evens (2.00).
Two-time FA Cup winners Preston (odds 7:00) last won the famous old trophy in 1938 and have not appeared in an FA Cup final since 1964.
Preston are just four points behind the automatic promotion places in League One and look a decent bet to at least make the playoffs.
They have been extremely hard to beat at Deepdale this season – only Bradford have managed to come away with three points.
Manchester United (1.45), under the leadership of Louis Van Lump-it, have been forced to play some very interesting formations and that has not sat too well with some commentators, particularly BBC 5 Live’s Steve Claridge, who has lampooned Van Gaal for his questionable tactics on numerous occasions.
If it weren’t for the fact that United are picking up points they often have no right to, Van Gaal would be considered something of a laughing stock.
Sam Allardyce, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, refereed to the Red Devils as “long-ball United” after their 1-1 draw last weekend.
It obviously touched a raw nerve, as the arrogant Van Gaal produced a pamphlet, handed out at a press conference, opining that United were nothing of the sort.
He was laughed out of court by Opta Stats, who proved otherwise.
Though they have won just three of the last eight meetings, Lump-it Louis and his United side should have little trouble beating North End, however.
They have won three of the last six meetings at Deepdale and seven of the last 12 meetings yielded three or more goals.
We reckon they can win by two clear goals at least, whatever formation Van Gaal will utilise.