Reading let us all down a couple of weeks ago when they failed to score in their home defeat to Wigan. This is another huge game for the Royals and I hope they can get a win this time round. I’m far from convinced that this is the likely outcome unfortunately but I’m prepared to give them another chance on the goal front. The Madejski has seen goals galore this season – Reading have scored as many home goals as Spurs this year but have conceded the second most in the whole division. Villa failed to break Man City down last time out but have recently got on the scoresheet at Arsenal and Everton, so Reading’s shaky backline shouldn’t cause them too many problems. 10 of Reading’s 14 home games have ended with over 2.5 goals this season and that looks a good shout again this weekend. I don’t want to be too greedy though and will give both teams to score another chance.
50 pts – Both teams to score @ 1.63
The Human Toothpick:
I’m backing the Saints, and their great away scoring record, to play their part in an entertaining game here. Norwich’s scoring form is a slight concern (1 in the last 4), but Southampton continue to leak on their travels and I expect them to be breached here. I actually think the Saints will win here as well, but don’t have enough conviction to back the away side.
40 points – Both teams to score @ 1.69
Wigan are only out of the relegation zone by virtue of their superior goal difference and staying in the Premier League must be their primary concern. While it would be nice for their supporters to have a trip to Wembley, I’m sure this game comes as a distraction. Equally, Everton’s recent dip in form probably means a Champions League place is now out of their reach so the FA Cup represents an excellent chance of silverware and a fair reward for an impressive season. Wigan have won away at lower league opposition in the previous rounds but Everton’s home form is solid, losing just once in the league at Goodison this season. I think they’ll progress with ease on Saturday lunchtime and have picked a relatively boring core bet with a couple of correct score punts for excitement.
15 pts – Asian handicap Everton (-1.0) @ 1.62
2.5 pts – Everton win 2-1 @ 9
2.5 pts – Everton win 3-1 @ 12.5
Man City vs Barnsley & Man Utd vs Chelsea:
Elsewhere in the FA Cup this weekend, Man City shouldn’t have any trouble getting past Barnsley, who sit in the bottom three of the Championship, but they handicap markets look to have this one about right. With the exception of their recent trip to Southampton, City’s defence has been rock solid this year and backing them to win to nil is tempting at 1.64. I’m going to keep the stakes small though and go for a pair of correct scores. Across Manchester, an angry United side will be back in action against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. Sir Alex will have got his side refocused and with Wayne Rooney out to prove a point to his manager, I think they will have too much for a travel weary Chelsea.
2.5 pts – Man City win 3-0 @ 7.6
2.5 pts – Man City win 4-0 @ 8.5
20 pts – Man Utd win @ 1.82
The Human Toothpick:
Long gone are the Xmas concerns over Newcastle’s relegation, as Pardew’s French contingent lead the climb up the table. The Magpies are scoring goals again, and look a formidable proposition in their own back yard. Sweeping an improved Saints side away last time out was an impressive result, and I expect them to do the same to Toni’s timid travellers. Jan signing Sissoko has been a phenomenon since he arrived on Tyneside, some stats to back it up: Sissoko has attempted more shots per game than any Newcaste player with the exception of Hatem Ben Arfa, who matches him. (2.5 shots per game). With three goals in four games, he is already Newcastle’s fifth highest Premier League scorer this season and he is the third best dribbler in the squad according to figures, behind only Hatem Ben Arfa and Davide Santon, with 1.5 successful dribbles per game.
25 points – Newcastle to WIN @ 1.88
5 points – Sissoko anytime goalscorer @ 2.75
Man City vs. Barnsley
Barnsley are awful, despite their incredible run under new management. I watched them a few weeks ago live and I really think Man City could put them to the sword here. Hopefully Mancini’s criticism of his strikers will still be ringing in their ears and they’ll prove their point against Championship opposition (who aren’t out of the relegation scrap just yet).
15 points – OVER 3.5 goals @ 1.87
England vs. Italy
Home advantage. 3 wins from 3 so far, England welcome an improved Italian side in good spirits and despite the changes England have made, I think they’ll have enough for a good win here. The Italians will no doubt get up for a big game at Rugby HQ and will try and stifle, like they did the French in Rome. With Parisse cleared to play, they’ll be no shortage of passion, and I’m hoping no shortage of tries!
15 points – Over 35.5 points @ 2.75