FA Cup preview
The Premier League takes a break this weekend for the fifth round of the FA Cup that gets underway at 12.45 tomorrow. For those searching for more betting coupon fodder there is also a full set of domestic lower league fixtures as well with the Championship, League One and Two (barring teams still involved in the FA Cup) all in action.
Arguably the tie of the weekend in the FA Cup is between Manchester City and Chelsea on Sunday. The two teams have met five times in the FA Cup and Manchester City have won four of these encounters. They may have another slight advantage as well come Sunday, as Chelsea played in the Champions League midweek, albeit on Tuesday, but lost 2-1 at PSG and they will be without influential club captain John Terry due to injury.
The two teams have met fairly regularly in the competition in recent years. Manchester City were victorious in the 2012/2013 season winning 2-1 at the Bridge, courtesy of strikes by Nasri and Aguero and they knocked them out the following season 2-0 at the Etihad.
Overall, in all competitions, City have won six of the last ten meetings between the two teams at the Etihad and they comfortably won this season’s league home fixture 3-0 but this was at the start of the infamous Mourinho scandals.
Personally I’m sticking with Chelsea on this occasion as I recommended them in an earlier article at 8/1. With Gus Hiddink at the helm (he won the FA Cup with Chelsea when he last managed them), they have improved considerably and are winning and scoring goals again. On the other hand, City are still experiencing a mini crisis after slipping further out of the title race last weekend when they lost 2-1 against Spurs at home and are struggling to find a settled consistent side this season.
There are four games on Saturday and three on Sunday. Saturday kicks off with the lunch-time kick-off between Arsenal and Hull. The Gunners have won four of the seven encounters between the two in the FA Cup (two drawn) and when they met last season at the Etihad in the competition, Arsenal won 2-0. With a week’s rest and no European action expect the Gunners to be at almost full strength and win today. The two potential bets on Arsenal would be either on the Handicap (-1 as they’ve scored 2 or more goals against Hull in their last ten encounters) or Arsenal Win and Over 2.5 Goals in the match.
The only all Premiership tie on Saturday is the tea-time kick-off between Bournemouth and Everton. Neither team has been consistent of late, which makes it a tricky match to call. The two teams have only met once since the 1980s, which was this season’s thrilling 6 goal Premier League encounter. Many will remember Everton being 2-0 ahead and cruising towards three points with just minutes to go before Bournemouth snatched a miraculous draw with 3 goals in the last 5 minutes.
Both managers are going to make full use of their squads for this one so expect some team changes with the league being the ultimate priority as usual. With a bigger and more talented squad at their disposal and a former FA Cup winning manager in Roberto Martinez at the helm, I expect the Toffees to progress to the next round on this occasion. Bournemouth’s main priority must be Premier League survival and, with the threat of relegation still a reality, I don’t expect Howe to risk all of his essential first team players unless absolutely necessary.
Elsewhere on Saturday Leeds face a tricky visit to Vicarage Road to face an in form Watford side who sit in the top half of the Premier League table at present. The last time the two teams met in a cup competition was back in 2010 in the League Cup at Elland Road when Leeds won 2-1.
Overall Watford have the upper hand in recent meetings winning the last three and, if you take the last four league meetings, there were 20 goals scored. I was originally thinking a low scoring narrow win for Watford here and, while I think they will progress to the next round, there are too many recent encounters between them when there has been a glut of goals and I think that might just be the case again on this occasion.
The other Premier League v Championship encounter on Saturday is between Reading and West Brom, who were fortunate to progress against Peterborough in their replay that went to penalties last week.
I’m expecting West Brom’s luck to run out this time and Reading to progress, but it won’t be a pushover for them as they are winless in their last six in the league although they have drawn four of them. Also, The Baggies aren’t high flyers either or blessed with plenty of regular goal scorers and, as Reading have only scored 3 goals in their last six league games, I’m expecting the normal time result to end in a stalemate.
In addition to the blockbuster City and Chelsea tie on Sunday there are two other games. Blackburn Rovers face the Hammers at Ewood Park while there’s a North South London derby between Spurs and Palace at White Hart Lane.
The Rovers and the Hammers have met ten times in the FA Cup previously and there were three wins for Rovers, two for the Hammers and five draws. With a wealth of attacking talent at their disposal and solid form this season, I imagine the Hammers will be popular with backers.
Blackburn have drawn more games at home in the league this season (7) than they’ve won (4), while seventh place West Ham are unbeaten in ten of their 14 league away games this season (won 5 drawn 5). However, they are in a bit of a slump at present with only one win in their last five in the league and that came at home against Aston Villa.
Finally the clash between Spurs and Palace at White Hart Lane could be a tough one for the home side, who managed a draw in their Europa Cup match on Thursday night at Fiorentina. The two sides have met five times in the FA Cup with two wins each and the last encounter was a comfortable 3-0 home win for Spurs back in January 2004. The last time Spurs lost against Palace was 0-1 in the Premiership back in 1997 and, in home matches since then, Spurs have won three and drawn two.
With their exertions on Thursday night, their matches coming thick and fast now and a fairly inexperienced team this is not going to be an easy game for Spurs. Palace have performed better away from home on many occasions this season and, while they’re really struggling to score goals at present, I still think they will be strong enough to at least stave off defeat in normal time. The longer this one drags out the better for Palace, who I imagine would be more than happy with a draw after 90 minutes.