Toffees set to come unstuck
Dave Tickner and Nick Hext preview Saturday's action in the fourth round of the FA Cup and cover all the action.
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Stoke and Manchester City, Betting Zone's two outright tips for this season's tournament, meet at the Britannia Stadium and our expectation is that they will go to a replay.
We also have tips for Bolton v Everton, Hull v Barnsley and Macclesfield v Wigan so read on.
There was a groan around BettingZone HQ when our pair of antepost picks were paired together at such an early stage, and it's unlikely either set of fans were too thrilled either. Stoke have lost just one of 11 Premier League games at the Britannia this season, and title-chasing Man City know they will have to be on their mettle to keep hopes of the Double alive. For Stoke, this competition looks their likeliest route back into Europe after a slide back into mid-table following a run of three straight defeats in the league. But with another year of Premier League football in the bag, Stoke can throw themselves into this cup tie and should give City a tough game. They've already held City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton to draws this season and have ended all square at 90 minutes in 14 of 26 in all competitions this term and seven of 13 at home. City are in good form but have drawn more Premier League games than any other current member of the top four and may have to settle for disposing of Stoke back on home turf.
Verdict: Stoke 1 Manchester City 1 (DT)
Looking through the FA Cup coupon for an upset, this looks a likely contender. Everton may be chasing a top-four spot in the Premier League, but there have been signs in the last couple of weeks that they may just be running out of steam after the busy festive period. They looked as poor as I've seen them all season in the goalless draw at Southampton on Monday night, and that followed another 0-0 stalemate against Swansea. Bolton, meanwhile, look to be turning the corner in a difficult season. They've lost just one of their last six games, which includes the home draw and away win against Sunderland in round three of this competition. They've also tightened up significantly at the back, conceding just five goals in seven since the 5-4 defeat at Peterborough before Christmas. With promotion off the agenda and relegation not a significant threat, Bolton are - unlike their opponents - able to approach the cup with freedom. They might just be running into the Toffees at the right time and look overpriced at 19/4 to win. However, with Everton having drawn 11 of 26 in all this season and six of the last 12, we'll play slightly safer and back the Trotters draw no bet.
Verdict: Bolton 1 Everton 0 (DT)
Arsenal will travel south with spirits renewed having bounced back from successive Premier League defeats with a cathartic dismantling of West Ham at the Emirates on Wednesday night. Some of the Gunners' attacking play was irresistible, with Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott all on target as the Hammers were put to the sword. They should have too much quality for a Brighton side that, despite sending Newcastle packing in round three, will be focused more on getting out of the Championship than getting to Wembley. However, having played on Wednesday night and with another crucial Premier League game against Liverpool to follow in midweek, there must be doubts about the team Arsene Wenger will select for this one and therefore it may pay to wait for the team sheets before getting involved.
Verdict: Brighton 1 Arsenal 3 (DT)
Not a game to get the juices flowing too much as 13th in the Championship hosts 14th. Derby are the 13/10 favourites for victory at the time of writing and you can understand why given the troubles at Ewood Park. Blackburn are now under the management of Michael Appleton but it hasn't gone to plan so far with a defeat and draw in the new man's first two games. Rovers have claimed just one in five on the road but Derby are inconsistent - the record from their previous six games reads won two, drawn two, lost two - so can't be trusted. There are more confident selections to be made elsewhere.
Verdict: Derby 1 Blackburn 1 (NH)
Huddersfield sacked manager Simon Grayson while I was writing this preview but it doesn't change my thinking. These two sides met on New Year's Day and it was Leicester who strolled to a 6-1 victory. That helps explain partly why the away side are the clear 4/5 favourites to win this clash and the difference between the two recent records further explains it. Leicester are second-top of the Championship form table - taking into account the previous six league matches - and Huddersfield are way down at second-bottom. There has been plenty of fighting talk from the Terriers but they are without Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns - both loanees who are unable to play against their parent club - and the record of no league win since November 10 is appalling. I expect Leicester to progress to round five but won't be getting involved at the odds-on.
Verdict: Huddersfield 1 Leicester 3 (NH)
Another clash between sides at the opposite end of the Championship but this time I fancy an upset. Barnsley travel to Hull on the back of three games unbeaten but David Flitcroft's men still find themselves up against it in the relegation zone. A cup run would provide some real momentum and there should be confidence that they can go to Hull and win. The Tigers are without a league success this year and only just stumbled past League One Leyton Orient in extra-time to progress in the cup. Plenty of changes were made by Steve Bruce for both bites of the cherry in the third round and it's clear the priorities are elsewhere for the KC Stadium club. Sheffield Wednesday, who sit just two places higher than Barnsley, won at Hull a couple of weeks ago and that helps make me happy to back the Tykes for victory at 17/4.
Verdict: Hull 0 Barnsley 2 (NH)
Conference v Premier League is the attraction at Moss Rose on Saturday. It really is a match to look forward to and there will be a sell-out crowd to witness the contest. I don't think there will be an upset though as Wigan - even with plenty of changes made - offer a much sterner test than the completely altered Cardiff side did in round three. The Latics progressed from the third round with a 1-0 replay win at Bournemouth and that shows that there is the steel needed to get it done when the going is tough. Angelo Henriquez started that match and grabbed his first goal for the club when coming on as a sub in the 3-2 defeat at home to Sunderland last Saturday. Roberto Martinez has been full of praise for the striker - who is on loan from Manchester United - and described him as having the "knack of being in the right place". I am very happy with the price for Henriquez to strike at Macc and will be taking advantage with the Chilean odds-on to net with plenty of other firms.
Verdict: Macclesfield 0 Wigan 3 (NH)
We have one League Two club standing in the FA Cup and one League Two club left in the League Cup. The size of task facing Aldershot in matching Bradford's successful run is shown by the odds for the clubs to lift the respective trophies - Bradford are now 9/2 for glory in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley and Aldershot are way, way, way out at 7500/1 in this competition's outright market. The Shots have improved recently - the only defeat in their previous six games coming on Tuesday night against promotion contenders Northampton - but this is a big step up in class. Boro have lost a couple of matches on the spin but lower league opposition have already been dealt with four times previously this season. Bury, Gillingham and Preston were all sent packing in the League Cup and non-league Hastings dispatched in the FA Cup. I see more of the same here and expect a fairly comfortable home win.
Verdict: Middlesbrough 2 Aldershot 0 (NH)
Saturday's other clash between England's top-flight and fifth tier takes place at Carrow Road. Norwich's haven't been ripping up many trees during the last few weeks in the Premier League but I would fancy them to get through this test with relative comfort. Norwich have lots of players in their ranks who have experienced football in the lower levels of the game and the 3-0 win in the third round at Peterborough was described as "very professional from the first minute" by manager Chris Hughton. Exactly the same is required again. Luton start pretty much every game they play in non-league as big favourites - their previous three matches coming against Barrow, Skelmersdale United and AFC Telford - so it will be interesting to see how being the underdogs suits them. It worked well in the 1-0 win over Wolves but Norwich provide a sterner test and I think the Canaries will claim the spot in the fifth round.
Verdict: Norwich 3 Luton 1 (NH)
We all know QPR's priority for the rest of the season is to stay in the Premier League. They sit five points from safety at the bottom of the table and it's fair to say more headlines will be created at Loftus Road from the final days of the transfer window than Saturday's game. Harry Redknapp's side did manage to get past West Brom in the third round - by no means an easy task - and they start Saturday's game as 8/13 favourites. They should never be trusted at odds-on this season but I'm not convinced MK Dons can head to London and get the job done. Karl Robinson's men have been inconsistent in recent weeks so - like QPR - can't be backed in this game. QPR won't want a replay but that may well be what they get.
Verdict: QPR 1 MK Dons 1 (NH)
Two teams here with bigger concerns than an FA Cup run, nice as it would be. Reading have hit a decent patch of form in recent weeks, winning four of their last five with the only defeat coming at Spurs in a game where the Royals took the lead. Sheffield United, meanwhile, have seen their bid for promotion from League One hit a bump in the road in a run of four league games without a win. Improving Reading should be too strong, but with their fight against relegation still very much in the balance - they currently lie 18th - then team changes are a real possibility and this is one game we'll swerve.
Verdict: Reading 2 Sheffield United 0 (DT)
It's no surprise to see Manchester United chalked up as heavy favourites for this one, with the Premier League leaders unbeaten domestically since November and having won all bar one of their Old Trafford clashes with Fulham since the Londoners' return to the Premier League. This isn't a match we'll avoid, although if you do fancy a bet on the game you could do worse than head to the handicaps. United are reasonably priced at a shade of odds-on giving a goal start and almost 2/1 giving a two-goal start against a side they've beaten 2-0 (twice), 3-0 (four times), 4-0 and 5-0 in a run of 10 wins and a draw in their last 12 clashes.
Verdict: Manchester United 3 Fulham 0 (DT)