WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s FA Cup 4th round guide

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…

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

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…

FA Cup Man Utd.jpg

DERBY v LEICESTER

Friday, 7.55pm

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.

VERDICT: DERBY 0 LEICESTER 2 @ 12/1

BEST BET: J VARDY ANYTIME SCORER @ 13/8

vardy-celebrates

LIVERPOOL v WOLVES

Saturday, 12.30pm

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.

VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 3 WOLVES 1 @ 10/1

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN & BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 15/8

Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

Saturday, 5.30pm

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.

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 1 ARSENAL 4 @ 33/1

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 4/6

welbeck

MILLWALL v WATFORD

Sunday, 12.00

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.

VERDICT: MILLWALL 0 WATFORD 2 @ 10/1

BEST BET: WATFORD TO WIN @ 11/8

Walter Mazzarri.jpg

SUTTON v LEEDS

Sunday, 2.00pm

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.

VERDICT: SUTTON 0 LEEDS 4 @ 22/1

BEST BET: LEEDS TO WIN @ 4/6

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League

MAN UTD v WIGAN

Sunday, 4.00pm

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.

VERDICT: MAN UTD 4 WIGAN 0 @ 15/2

BEST BET: ONE OR OTHER FAILS TO SCORE @ 4/7

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FA CUP: OUR TOP TIPS FOR THE THIRD ROUND

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!

Claudio Bravo File Photo

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.

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 8/13

MAN UNITED v READING

Saturday – 12:30

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.

stam

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.

BEST BET: MAN UTD CLEAN SHEET – NO @ 23/20

PRESTON v ARSENAL

Saturday – 17:30

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.

BEST BET: UNDER 3.5 GOALS @ 8/15

LIVERPOOL v PLYMOUTH

Sunday – 13:30

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.

palfrey

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.

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN TO NIL @ 8/11

TOTTENHAM v ASTON VILLA

Sunday – 16:00

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.

alli

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.

BEST BET: TOTTENHAM -1 (HANDICAP) @ 3/4

CAMBRIDGE v LEEDS

Monday – 19:45

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.

Everything points to an away win here.

BEST BET: LEEDS TO WIN @ 11/10

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mcb-acca

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s F.A. Cup Guide

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.

You will have no doubt noticed that your improved club betting service has arrived. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

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…

WELBECK
Welbeck: Dream return

ARSENAL v HULL

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]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 2 HULL CITY 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: ARSENAL TO WIN @ 1.57

READING v WEST BROM

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.

HECTOR
Hector: A real talent

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]

VERDICT: READING 1 WEST BROM 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.57

WATFORD v LEEDS

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.

EVANS
Evans: Controversial figure

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]

VERDICT: WATFORD 3 LEEDS 1 @ 13.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.00

BOURNEMOUTH v EVERTON

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.

Benik Afobe
Afobe: Bright start

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]

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 0 EVERTON 2 @ 10.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.85

BLACKBURN v WEST HAM

Liverpool failed to beat West Ham (2.20) four times in the same season.

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.

Hope Akpan
Full of Hope: Akpan expected to return

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]

VERDICT: BLACKBURN 1 WEST HAM 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: BLACKBURN AND DRAW @ 1.62

TOTTENHAM v CRYSTAL PALACE

Tottenham (1.62) are riding the crest of a wave, while Crystal Palace (6.00) are thrashing for life in the undertow.

Cabaye
Key figure: Cabaye has been injured

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.

Spurs are currently fourth favourites at 6/1 to lift the F.A. Cup (behind Arsenal 7/2, Manchester United 9/2 and Chelsea 11/2), but will fancy their chances of a hat-trick of wins against the Eagles, who are 25/1 to lift the trophy.

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]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.91

CHELSEA v MAN CITY

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.

PEDRO
Pedro: Finding form

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]

VERDICT: CHELSEA 1 MAN CITY 1 @ 6.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.70

SHREWSBURY v MAN UTD

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]

VERDICT: SHREWSBURY 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 3 @ 7.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70 

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