It has certainly been a big week in English football. Manchester City sensationally knocked sworn enemy Manchester United out of the FA Cup, Arsenal went in front and were then pegged back all in one crazy stoppage time frenzy with Liverpool, Stoke marched into an FA Cup final for the first time in the club’s 148 year history, United were then held in a midweek league game by Newcastle and the following day Arsenal threw away a 3-1 lead to only draw with arch rival Tottenham. So what does that all mean? Manchester City play Stoke in the FA Cup final next month and Manchester United have a six point buffer at the top of the league from both Chelsea and Arsenal. Despite their position, it is not cut and dried for the Red Devils as they play both the Blues and the Gunners in the run in.
Manchester United v Everton (2145 AEST)
Things are just going to get a little tense at Old Trafford. After the FA Cup semi final defeat to City the treble is off. The Champions League is still going, but it will be tough to knock over Real Madrid or Barcelona, never mind getting past Schalke. With a difficult run in this is a must win game for the hosts. They have won 15 of their 16 home league games this campaign, drawing the other. It would take a brave man to bet against United. I am not that man.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to win @ 1.48 (Betfair)
Aston Villa v Stoke (0000 AEST)
Villa boss Gerard Houllier has been admitted to hospital just days before this game is due to kick off. No details have yet emerged as to the cause of his ill health, but his condition is said to be comfortable, although he is likely to remain in hospital for quite a few days. Assistant Manager Gary McCallister will step in as caretaker for the foreseeable future. This is a similar situation to last year when then Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear was not well enough to continue in charge. The Geordies were beaten by West Brom immediately following his hospital admission. Stoke are flying high after the 5-0 victory over Bolton in the FA Cup semi finals. All of the Stoke boys will be looking to impress manager Tony Pulis in an effort to earn a starting spot for English football’s biggest day. I think they might just catch a distracted Aston Villa on the hop.
Andy’s Bet: Stoke to win @ 4.80 (Betfair)
Blackpool v Newcastle (0000 AEST)
The team that can’t stop conceding against the team that can’t score. Blackpool have leaked more goals than any other side in the division, while Newcastle’s travelling fans have seen on average a goal every 120 minutes. In Steve Harper’s absence, Tim Krul continues between the sticks for the Magpies. Kevin Nolan returns from suspension to join a first choice Newcastle midfield alongside Jonas Gutierrez, Joey Barton and Cheik Tiote. The Seasiders will be relying on Charlie Adam to provide the spark, but he will have his work cut out finding room against the energetic Tiote. I think this could be a low relatively low scoring game for Blackpool!
Andy’s bet: Draw @ 3.60 (Betfair)
Liverpool v Birmingham (0000 AEST)
Birmingham are sneaking away from the drop zone, but despite Liverpool’s poor season, Anfield is still a tough place to visit. Liverpool have won ten of their sixteen home games, and of those ten wins, seven have been to nil. I’m more than happy to bet this will be number eight.
Andy’s Bet: Liverpool to win to nil @ 2.38 (Sportsbet)
Sunderland v Wigan (0000 AEST)
It is crisis time at Sunderland. Danny Welbeck is the latest player to be struck down by injury, and manager Steve Bruce has only one frontman to call on, Asamoah Gyan. It is down to the Ghanaian to save the sinking Sunderland ship. The Black Cats have taken only one point from the last twenty seven available to them. That is horrible, and if it continues they may even be relegated. Wigan triumphed over Blackpool last weekend, and it the processwent from the bottom rung on the ladder to the fourth bottom. It really is that tight. Sunderland are due a bit of luck, and if it is going to fall to anyone, the goalscoring chance is most likely to land at the feet of Gyan.
Andy’s Bet: Asamoah Gyan to score at anytime @ 2.80 (Sportsbet)
Tottenham v West Brom (0000 AEST)
Tottenham are in a desperate chase to overhaul Manchester City and sneak into the top 4. This season Spurs sampled the flavour of the Champions League and now, like a young Oliver Twist, they want a second serving. West Brom have been on a good run lately, but came unstuck last weekend against Chelsea. I’m tipping back to back defeats for the Baggies and Tottenham to sneak into the top 4 ahead of City’s match on Tuesday morning. Oh, and since it is a Tottenham home game, there will be plenty of goalmouth action.
Andy’s Bet: Tottenham to win @ 1.60 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.67 (Sportsbet)
Wolverhampton v Fulham (0000 AEST)
Like Sunderland, Wolves are dealing with a goalscoring crisis. Kevin Doyle and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake are Wolves’ two first choice attackers, but both have been ruled out of this weekend’s fixture. Fulham have won once on the road all season, so aren’t fully equipped to cash in on Wolves’ predicament. That is why I think this will be tight. Matt Jarvis is arguably the most gifted attacking player on the pitch and the right winger is juicy odds to net the opener in a physical encounter.
Andy’s Bet: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.67 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Matt Jarvis to score the first goal @ 12.00 (Sportsbet)
Chelsea v West Ham (0230 AEST)
West Ham’s Scott Parker has been voted 2010-11 Footballer of the year by the Football Writers’ Association. It is both a credit to Parker that he has won the award in an average team, and an indictment on his teammates given the Hammers are languishing in the relegation zone despite Parker’s, at times, heroic efforts. Chelsea are threatening to finish the league season as they started it. A string of convincing victories. Unfortunately for the affluent west end of London, their football team went into hibernation over the winter months and are still playing catch up to Manchester United. Nevertheless, Chelsea are looking mean at the moment and even though they are not publicly talking up chasing down United, I fancy they think they’re half a chance.
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win to nil @ 2.00 (Sportsbet)
Bolton v Arsenal (0100 AEST)
What is going on at Arsenal? Manchester United keep on dropping points and it is almost as if the Red Devils are saying to the Londoners, “Go on. Come on up to the top of the table with us, we’ve saved you a spot.” And I’m not quite sure of the reason, but Arsenal’s response is yet to change from, “Thanks for the kind offer, but we’d just like to stay down where we are.” Absolute madness by the Gunners. If Manchester United beat Everton the day before this game, Arsenal are likely to be nine points plus goal difference behind when they kick off. There are only five games to go in the season, so time is running out. Personally, I think the season has slipped past Arsenal, and frustratingly they will probably win this game and show they were more than capable of these victories all along.
Andy’s Bet: Arsenal to win @ 1.78 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Robin Van Persie to score first @ 5.00 (Sportsbet)
Blackburn v Manchester City (0500 AEST)
Big, big game for both clubs. City are chasing the top 4 and Champions League football next year, while Blackburn have a different, less lofty ambition. Seventeenth and Premiership football next year. Rovers are the third lowest scoring home team in the division, but have conceded fewer goals at home than any other team from seventh place down. City have the second best defensive record in the league, so everything points to a tight, low scoring match.
Andy’s Bet: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.73 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: 0-0 at halftime @ 2.75 (Sportsbet)
SNEAKY EUROPEAN MULTI
Andy’s Bet: Tottenham, Hearts, Roma, Bayer Leverkusen, Barcelona and Nancy all to win @ 9.60 (Sportsbet)