Baggies to upset happy Hoops
We have previewed Saturday's FA Cup games M-Z and can see QPR coming unstuck at home to West Brom.
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Championship leaders Cardiff should have no problem seeing off Blue Square Bet Premier play-off hopefuls Macclesfield at Moss Rose. But the Silkmen's star striker Matthew Barnes-Homer provides some value in this tie. The former Luton forward comes into this game with four goals in his last three matches and has 18 for the season. Whatever team Malky Mackay picks it will be packed full of quality but I fancy Barnes-Homer to nick a goal for Town. He's 21/10 to do just that with Sky Bet and Blue Square.
Verdict: Macclesfield 1 Cardiff 3 (CC)
City have responded to losing at home to United by winning both subsequent home games to nil, but there's little temptation to back them to make it three at 5/6. Watford possess quality in attack and played out a seven-goal thriller against Charlton on New Year's Day, when their weakness in defending set-pieces was confirmed. With that in mind, a shade of odds-against about over 3.5 goals isn't too bad a price, while both teams to score is tempting enough at 11/10. Watford are unbeaten in five on their travels and have scored 16 goals in that run, and if there is an angle into this game it's surely to go high on goalmouth action. BetVictor's 17/4 that the first goal is a header is an interesting prospect but all things considered, we'll leave this one alone. Ultimately, City should win convincingly but Watford may have their moments.
Verdict: Man City 3 Watford 1 (BC)
Hastings have done magnificently to get this far and they couldn't have hardly asked for a more difficult trip, on the pitch and on the road, in round three. The Ryman Premier outfit are five divisions below Boro in the pyramid and will have been dreaming of landing a real money-spinner when the draw was made. The best they can probably hope for at the Riverside, where Boro have been in fine form, is getting on the scoresheet and they have scored in each of their last six. But the only value in this game for me is the over four goals market and is worth a second glance at 5/6.
Verdict: Middlesbrough 5 Hastings 1 (CC)
There's always a shock or two on third round day and I fancy one to come at the New Den. Millwall have been one of the surprise packages of the Championship this term with their 40 point haul a great return at this stage. Preston have surprisingly struggled in League One after a summer overhaul of their squad by Graham Westley. But they have more quality than their lowly 14th position suggests and have saved their best performances for on the road. They are 9/2 to beat the Lions and I will be investing for them to nick the win.
Verdict: Millwall 0 Preston 1 (CC)
The FA Cup has come at exactly the right time for beleaguered Oldham boss Paul Dickov but I can't see them causing Nottingham Forest too many problems. Dickov has seen three members of his coaching staff placed on gardening leave as the Latics board look for an improvement to their woeful run of form. They claimed a creditable 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe on New Year's Day but with new Forest boss Alex McLeish desperate to win over the City Ground faithful he will want his side to put on a show. Striker Billy Sharp is in fine form for the Reds and he could be the star of the show.
Verdict: Nottingham Forest 4 Oldham 1 (CC)
Oxford boss Chris Wilder is a lifelong Sheffield United fan but would love nothing more than putting one over his boyhood club. It's the second successive year these sides have been paired together in the FA Cup, the Blades winning 3-0 last year in round one. But at a packed Kassam Stadium I don't think Danny Wilson's side will have it all their own way. The U's are a difficult team to beat on their own patch and with the Blades already drawing 11 times this season the 12/5 on a stalemate this weekend looks juicy.
Verdict: Oxford 1 Sheffield United 1 (CC)
A late goal from Tommy Rowe saw Peterborough pick up their fourth win in five matches on New Year's Day and they'll fancy their chances of causing an upset here. Norwich have lost four on the bounce in the Premier League to see their previous unbeaten run come crashing to a halt, and generally speaking they've been a far better side at Carrow Road of late. The obvious bet in this game is both teams to score at 8/15 but the price is right and instead I'm prepared to chance the hosts at 11/4. They were in far worse form when coming close to causing a Capital One Cup upset at Reading earlier this season and have the attacking tools to have a real go at Norwich. The visitors have injury problems up-front and it remains to be seen how seriously Chris Hughton takes this competition, so let's chance an upset.
Verdict: Peterborough 3 Norwich 1 (BC)
I like the look of the Baggies here at 9/5 to put a temporary downer on Harry Redknapp's side after their monumental win at Stamford Bridge in midweek. Steve Clarke has done an excellent job at The Hawthorns with his side in seventh place and just seven points short of the magic 40 but how long they can sustain a push for Europe remains to be seen. The Cup could give them a real interest in the second half of the campaign and they look more than capable of making it through to the next round. QPR's issues are much more pressing in the league and it will be interesting to see if Redknapp will try and maintain the momentum or whether he rings the changes. Either way, one swallow does not make a summer and despite the enormity of beating Chelsea, it is hard to forget how dire they were against Liverpool at Loftus Road last Sunday. The visitors have won six, drawn three and lost just once from their last 10 encounters against QPR and they can end a current two-game losing slide.
Verdict: QPR 0 West Brom 2 (DJ)
Another upset could well come at Hillsborough as Sheffield Wednesday have a sorry home record this season. They have already lost eight on their home patch since promotion and that's the major reason why they are struggling in the Championship's bottom three. With former Wednesday players Darren Potter and Ryan Lowe returning with the Dons, fresh from an impressive win at Notts County on New Year's Day, they will want to show Owls fans what they are missing. Karl Robinson's side are 13/5 with Blue Square and that's a price worth considering.
Verdict: Sheffield Wednesday 0 MK Dons 1 (CC)
Chelsea come into this having been on the wrong end of the upset of the season on Wednesday whereas Southampton's last outing saw them deservedly draw with Arsenal. Having caused problems for Spurs and both Manchester sides this season, Saints will fancy their chances of causing something of an upset although Chelsea's record in the competition is truly remarkable, with four wins in the last six years. If Juan Mata returns as expected they should be much more effective and providing Chelsea don't lose this, you'd expect them to progress be it on the day or via a Stamford Bridge replay. If there is a bet though it could be 7/4 about the home side scoring first as they've done so in their last two whereas Chelsea have gone behind in back-to-back games, but for us this is a game to swerve.
Verdict: Southampton 2 Chelsea 2 (BC)
This clash won't catch the eye to many but I'm intrigued by what happens at Roots Hall this weekend with both clubs chasing promotion in their respective divisions. Up until the last week Southend were on a great run but defeats to Burton and Gillingham have checked their charge into the top three so this cup tie probably comes at a great time. The Bees haven't lost in 12 but on the road have already drawn seven games and another stalemate looks on the cards.
Verdict: Southend 1 Brentford 1
It's 26 years since these sides produced a classic FA Cup final and how the times have changed. Spurs are flying under Andre Villas-Boas and look set to challenge for a top-four spot in the Premier League, while Coventry sit 11th in League Two despite an upturn in fortunes of late. It must be noted that the Sky Blues have won their last six on the road but this is an altogether different test and, although the Portuguese maestro will make changes, it's nigh on impossible to see beyond a comfortable home win. Coventry were thumped 6-1 at Arsenal in the Capital One Cup earlier this season and if they score here they'll have done well. Banker.
Verdict: Tottenham 4 Coventry 0 (BC)
Immediately this is a game that stands out as a potential banana-skin. Bournemouth have improved drastically since Eddie Howe returned and are unbeaten in 16 games, winning 12 of them. Wigan on the other hand have bigger fish to fry in terms of maintaining their Premier League status and enter this game on the back of a 4-0 drubbing on New Year's Day. In addition, they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford and lost in the third round of this competition to Swindon last year, so there's no temptation whatsoever to back them at odds-on. Indeed, if there is a bet here it's Bournemouth but I expected in excess of 4/1 so 7/2 quotes are begrudgingly left alone. While this is a fascinating tie and one that could well see a Premier League side eliminated by lower-league opponents, the prices just don't offer any great value.
Verdict: Wigan 1 Bournemouth 1 (BC)
West Ham have shown the ability to pop up now and again to beat the Red Devils and will be looking forward to a lively encounter in the East End. They got back to winning ways against Norwich over New Year after a flat display against Reading and the atmosphere could be boosted further as well with prodigal son Joe Cole potentially in the line up. They can also take encouragment from a solid display at Old Trafford when they lost 1-0 in the Premier League at the end of November, a match which could have seen them share the poils but for Carlton's Cole's late miss from close range. The pacesetters have won eight and drawn one of their last nine fixtures on the domestic front but Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to freshen things up somewhat to give some of his frontline stars a little breather. He has the depth though at his disposal to ensure that there is not a huge drop-off in display while the Hammers are looking very thin in that department at the moment in terms of taking on a team of this nature. I would not be surprised to see Fergie go with the bang-in-form Javier Hernandez up front and the Mexican can add to his recent gains with another goal at least.
Verdict: West Ham 1 Manchester United 2 (DJ)