The Human Toothpick:
Two 0-0 draws in succession have come as a bit of a surprise for Everton, given their hugely impressive early season form. I thought they’d beat Swansea and Southampton easily, but the goals dried up and they failed to win either. Another barren January transfer window also beckons for Moyes, with the transfer kitty disappointingly empty once again – meaning that he’ll likely have to do with his current squad for the rest of the season, assuming his afro’d Belgian doesn’t make the switch to West London. An away trip to the Reebok won’t be an easy clash, but I think the Toffees would love another cup run and I can see a strong team on show here. Bolton’s win away to Sunderland will have given Dougie Freedman’s men a timely boost as the games pile up for Championship teams – but I don’t think they’ll have the firepower to overly cause Everton problems.
25 points – Everton to WIN – 1.71
Australian Open Men’s Winner:
Novak Djokovic sauntered into this weekend’s final by dispatching an in-form looking David Ferrer in 3 sets earlier in the week…and I’m finding it very hard to look past him winning his 3rd Australian Open in succession. He is such an incredible battler that I think the grind of long rallies, in sweltering heat on an abrasive surface suits him down to the ground – probably helped by his ridiculously meticulous diet! It looks like it’s going to be Murray to meet him, in a repeat of the US Open final last year which Andy, perhaps a little surprisingly, won. Novak goes in as the favourite, and while Andy’s value looks a little tastier right now (3.35 to win the tournie as he battles against Fed today), I think Djokstrap will take the spoils again.
25 points – Djokovic to WIN the Australian Open – 1.66
India vs England
After the English optimism that followed the opening match, this series has been well and truly dominated by the Indians. All of their top order have made runs in the series and England are left juggling their fringe players, unsure of what their best eleven might be and I expect more changes in the bowling department for this game. The series is dead and buried at 3-1, but after consecutive home Test and One-Day defeats India will be desperate to finish on a high.
35 Pts – India Win @ 1.62
Bolton vs Everton
Phil Neville said he’s desperate to lift a trophy with Everton this year and in reality he can only be talking about the FA Cup. Everton have been excellent this year, but were very poor in the first half against Southampton on Monday night and David Moyes will want to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate on Saturday. I feel an early goal for the away side will see no way back for Bolton, who’ve struggled for goals since Christmas and Kevin Davies is beginning to look a little leg weary. Victor Anichebe and Kevin Miralles should have ensured themselves a starting berth, after impressing in the second half against Southampton and I expect them to hold too much quality for this Championship outfit.
35 Pts – Everton Win @ 1.7
Another kind home draw for Middlesbrough, who faced Hastings in the 3rd round. This time, the team 5th in the Championship host an Aldershot team who are fighting to stay in the Football League. The Shots are just two points above the drop zone in League Two and this tie cannot possibly be their primary concern. Meanwhile, although Middlesbrough have lost their last three league games to promotion rivals, they are well placed in the playoff places with 5 pts between them and 7th. This should allow them a good tilt at the Cup and with a very strong home record (won 10 out of 14) I think they’ll cruise through to the fourth round.
30 pts – Middlesbrough to win by 2 or more @ 1.91
The Human Toothpick:
It must be rather frustrating to be an Arsenal fan. Your team scores 12 goals combined against Newcastle and West Ham at home (and look very classy while doing it), then draw away at S’hampton and lose to Chelsea, while looking like a team that’s barely played together. Which Arsenal is going to turn up at the Amex this weekend? I’m not sure. It’s certainly not an easy place to go (as Newcastle will attest)…and I’m sure Poyet will get his boys playing good football against a fellow passing team. I’m going to back goals then.
10 points – OVER 2.5 goals – 1.74
7.5 points – Both teams to score – 1.71
Norwich vs. Luton:
I’ve got to stop backing Norwich! (Especially after they chose the Newcastle game to stop their recent scoring streak and ruin my goals bet). Hey-ho…I’m back to Carrow Road again this weekend and I’m going to plump for the old enemy once again. Luton (incredibly) are now a conference side, having had about 150 points deducted in a succession of administrations. A Premier League scalp would give their supporters a huge boost, but I think Hughton will prepare properly for this one (esp after learning that Ipswich have been lending Luton their training facilities ahead of the game!). Norwich have enough players that know all about league football (many having been in League One themselves not that long ago) and they’ll be keen to make sure they’re not the ones making the headlines on Sat night. The odds sadly are pants…and I can’t seem to find anyone offering a Norwich win & +2.5 goals…so I’m going boring and backing over 2.5 goals I’m afraid.
15 points – OVER 2.5 goals – 1.64
Derby vs Blackburn
An all championship clash caught my eye for a bit of value this week. Both sides have shown indifferent form of late and seem destined for mid-table mediocrity in the Championship. The FA cup offers something a bit different but having failed to split these two sides in the league with a 1-1 draw, it seems hard to split them here and a draw seems to offer decent value. Derby have drawn five at home to Blackburn’s eight away and its one of those games that’s screaming out 1-1!
15 Pts – Draw @ 3.3
5 Pts – 1-1 @ 7.0
I think poor Fulham will be fed up with Manchester by the end of this weekend, having lost to nil at City last weekend they now have to travel to United. Although they don’t quite fit my theory of ‘teams under pressure to win a trophy’, United have a good enough squad to compete in all competitions as usual. We know Fulham don’t travel well and this is especially the case when they visit Old Trafford, where they haven’t picked up so much as a point since October 2003. SAF will undoubtedly rotate his team a bit but even if he does it is likely to include Rooney, Hernandez and other talented squad players looking to make an impact and I think they’ll have more than enough to get through to the next round.
20 pts – Man United to win by 2 or more @ 1.73
Stoke vs Man City:
I was at Wembley when these two faced each other in 2011 FA Cup final, which City edged by a single goal, and I expect another close encounter this time round. With the Premier League looking like it might be heading to their neighbours, Roberto Mancini will need to win the FA Cup to meet at least some of the incredibly high expectations of the owners and fans. He has to name a strong side but Stoke have done enough to secure another year of Premier League football and can give the Cup a real go. We’ve talked endlessly about Stoke’s home form but it’s the number of games they draw that attracts me. They’ve drawn 14 of 26 games in all competitions this season, with 7 out of 13 at home. They’ve already held City once this season (in fact this fixture has been 1-1 the five times it’s been played) and I’m backing them to do it again.
10 pts – Stoke vs Man City Draw @ 3.9
5 pts – HT/FT Draw/Draw @ 5.9
Norwich vs Luton:
Check out our latest ‘25 to 1’ post for further details.
25 pts – Norwich to win by 2 or more @ 1.83
The Human Toothpick:
It was the closest I’ve come to winning an acca last round, with Cardiff unbelievably throwing away their lead against League 2 Maccesfield! I’m going to back some of the bigger guns again this time, hoping to avoid the cupset we all know is going to pop up somewhere!
7.5 points – Man City, Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U all to WIN – 6.01
As mentioned previously, at this stage of the FA Cup I like to look for teams that simply can’t afford to take it lightly. With just the two Manchester clubs in with a chance of winning the league, it leaves the rest of the ‘big’ clubs fighting over the Cup. I’ve combined a selection of them:
10 pts – Man Utd, Norwich, Chelsea and Liverpool to WIN @ 3.79