The FA Cup is back! This weekend sees six FA Cup 5th round matches and two 4th round replays. The romance of the FA Cup lives on with seven non-premier league sides still in the competition. All of those teams outside the top flight will have to do battle with teams in the top division to earn a spot in the quarter finals.
The underdog fanciers out there will no doubt be tuning in to watch Crawley Town, only the 6th non-league team to reach this stage of the competition since World War II, who have been fantastically drawn to play away, at Old Trafford, against the mighty Manchester United.
At this stage of the competition Premier League sides seem to pay more attention to the cup and see it as a chance of silverware, while lower league outfits are already satisfied with a good cup run. With this in mind, I’m generally favouring the Premier League teams, but I’m still going to back one cupset!
Chelsea v Everton (2330 AEDT)
This is a 4th round replay and promises to be a real humdinger! This is a big, big week for Chelsea, following this match they have a midweek champions league battle. The premier league title is out of reach, so the FA Cup represents the only remaining chance of a domestic trophy. Louis Saha probably won’t start this one due to injury and Everton have been short of goals without him. Chelsea’s glittering strikers have been increasingly dull in front of goal in the last 2 games. Fernando Torres in particular hasn’t lived up to the fans’ expectations. I think Chelsea will keep it tight, and do just enough to get the points.
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win to nil @ 2.50 (Sportsbet)
Birmingham v Sheffield Wednesday (0200 AEDT)
Sheffield Wednesday are on a wretched league run. The owls haven’t won in the Npower league one since early December, but have found salvation in the FA Cup. Wednesday actually have a decent squad littered with players who have had some success in the Premier League. These players include Clinton Morrison, Neil Mellor, Gary Teale and Nicky Weaver. Birmingham boss Alex McLeish mentioned that his team were suffering from fatigue after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Newcastle midweek. City also have a League Cup final to look forward to next weekend, so I think Wednesday will fancy their chances of getting at a below par Birmingham. Unfortunately for the Owls, Birmingham will have too much class.
Andy’s Bet: Birmingham to win @ 1.65 (Luxbet)
Andy’s Bet: Both teams to score @ 1.73 (Sportsbet)
Stoke v Brighton (0200 AEDT)
Stoke have been battling away in mid table obscurity lately. Not good enough to break into the top 6 or 7, but too well drilled to fall into the relegation pack. They have a match against league one opposition with the carrot of an FA Cup quarter final as supreme motivation. Stoke play a simple game, but they play it so well. A side that always loses the possession count in the premier league and still manages to get results, should be easily able to put away a team like Brighton when they will have a lot more of the ball. For their part, Brighton are a very good passing team for league one. They might surprise Stoke with their build up play, but I doubt they will get through the defense.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to win @ 1.65 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.80 (Sportsbet)
Manchester United v Crawley Town (0415 AEDT)
This is exactly why I love the FA Cup. Non-league Crawley Town and 9,000 of their fans get a day out in this round of 16 match at Old Trafford. They have earned the right to compete against the most dominant club in the land and it is a really special day for Crawley. 93 places separate them in the Englilsh football league hierachy, but when they kickoff, the scoreboard will read 0-0. United will likely field an understrength team, but it will still be packed with talent and I will be betting that Sir Alex won’t want to be embarrassed in this live telecast.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to be leading at half time and full time @ 1.36 (Centrebet)
Manchester City v Notts County (0100 AEDT)
Manchester City have a great opportunity to win this 4th round replay and progress to a 5th round clash with Aston Villa. Just like in the 3rd round, cashed up City found themselves behind to lower league opposition and fought back to earn a replay. I fear that the bird has already flown for Notts County. The black and whites were 10 minutes away from a famous victory until City’s new 27 million pound striker Edin Dzeko broke their resistance. This should be a stroll for a team with the ambition of the sky blues. County have bigger things to worry about too, they are slipping towards the league one relegation trap door.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester City to win to nil @ 1.91
Andy’s Bet: Mario Balotelli to score at anytime @ 1.57
Fulham v Bolton (0200 AEDT)
With due respect to Fulham and Bolton, this is the game I am least interested in this weekend. Bolton have been rather ordinary lately and just scraped past Wigan over 2 legs. Fulham are in ridiculous form at Craven Cottage in 2011, having won 5 of their 6 home fixtures in the new year. The only game they haven’t won was Monday night’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea, and they would have got 3 points in that match if Clint Dempsey converted his late penalty.
Andy’s Bet: Fulham to win @ 2.18 (Betfair)
Leyton Orient v Arsenal (0330 AEDT)
This will be another beauty. I can’t believe I am nearly as excited about this game as I was for the Arsenal v Barcelona fixture in midweek. That match was just about the highest quality of football I have seen this season and Arsene Wenger will rotate most of his players for this match. That might give Orient a hope, but every Arsenal player will be looking to make an impression and force their way into the gunners first choice XI. Orient are on a ripper run at the moment, only experiencing the bitter taste of defeat once in their last 20 outings. They will give this a good go, so I am expecting plenty of goals, but ultimately an Arsenal win. I have also gone a bit mental with my correct score bet!
Andy’s Bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 2.25 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win 5-1 @ 29.00 (Centrebet)
West Ham v Burnley (0700 AEDT)
It will take all weekend, but I predict us FA Cup fans will get the cupset we crave in the Monday night fixture (UK time). Even though Robbie Keane is unavailable, West Ham have good striking options Carlton Cole, Frederic Piquionne, Victor Obinna and Demba Ba. Ba scored twice in his full West Ham debut as they came from 3-0 down to snatch a 3-3 draw with West Brom last Saturday. West Ham will be concentrating and putting all their energies on Premier League survival. This will open the door for Burnley. The clarets may be playing away, but they have only been vanquished once in their last 5 on the road.
Andy’s Bet: Burnley to win @ 4.00 (Sportsbet)
Sneaky European Multi
After bombing out in our last 2 multi’s, the trend has been to bounce back at the 3rd attempt. Let’s hope that it happens again.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke, Hearts, Lazio, PSG, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia all to win @ 16.50 (Sportsbet)