Oh boy!!! I told you earlier this season the FA Cup third round was my favourite weekend of the football year. Am I allowed to change my mind? I sure hope so, because these cup Semi Finals are looking just as good. The 2011 Semi Final edition will be outrageously exciting. Manchester’s best of enemies, City and United, will provide a thrilling spectacle on Saturday night and then two of the league’s mid tablers will fight for the right to party on English football’s biggest day!
Note that both games will be played on Wembley’s neutral turf.
Manchester City v Manchester United (0215 AEST)
In typical Manchester United fashion they have brought out the trash talk before a big match. United’s ginger veteran Paul Scholes has publicly stated that City are not at a good enough level to be considered the Red Devils’ main rival. It is this sort of arrogance that has intimidated opponents for years. So how will this game pan out? Unfortunately for City, their leading scorer, and best player, Carlos Tevez, has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. His absence opens the door for one of Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli to lead the attacking line. To be honest, I haven’t seen enough from either player to suggest they will rise to the big occasion. United will constrict City into narrow attacks, while at the same time looking to use width in their own forward thrusts. United look too solid and too settled across the park and have in form strikers to call on. Like Tevez, Wayne Rooney is also unavailable – serving the second of a two match suspension – but United have the score-goals-for-fun duo of Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov to bring the striking power. I think this will be tight and low scoring. Unfortunately for City fans, I can’t see their team scoring, but I can see a couple of goals for the red devils and a trip to the final. Treble on.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to win @ 2.14 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to win 2-0 @ 11.50 (Betfair)
Bolton v Stoke (0100 AEST)
Both teams have been setting themselves for this game for a while. Mid table in the league and no relegation problems to worry about, this is the biggest game of their seasons so far. For Bolton, on-loan striker Dean Sturridge is cup-tied due to his earlier involvement in the competition while at Chelsea. This means a return to the previous partnership of Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander up front. There partnership should be easier for Stoke’s defence to deal with increasing the chance of a clean sheet, while the Potters are always good value for a goal from a set piece. Centre back Robert Huth is Stoke’s second top scorer this campaign with 8 goals. He is a handful at every corner or Rory Delap long throw. I suggest putting a few coins on him to score at any time and getting massively excited every time Stoke put a set piece into the mixer. Both sides are evenly matched, but my gut feeling is Stoke will progress. I am not sure they will win it in normal time, so I’m betting on them just to qualify.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to qualify @ 2.00 (Centerbet)
Andy’s Bet: Robert Huth to score anytime @ 6.00 (Sportsbet)