The FA Cup continues this weekend with the Quarter Finals kicking off. Manchester United have already grabbed the first big piece of domestic silverware this season after their Carling Cup win, but the Red Devils are no longer in this competition.
Defeated finalists Aston Villa are in it though and will hope to advance through to the Semi’s against Reading as they look for another pop at picking up a piece of silverware.
Portsmouth v Birmingham
Pompy are still struggling at the bottom of the league table and the news is not looking good for the club whose financial and legal woes seem to get worse as the weeks progress. Despite this, they did manage to get a shock win against Burnley in the league last week, stealing a 2-1 victory and three points just a day after they officially went into administration and were docked nine points.
Birmingham have been solid this season with a defense that has put up barriers against many of the top teams. They are limited in attacking capabilities but the goal-scorers are there and the goals will come from this side.
Portsmouth need a good cup run more than anyone at the minute and the playing and coaching staff will know this. The odds and expectations are that Birmingham will walk away with this but I expect Portsmouth to put up a tough front, they showed against Burnley that they have not crumbled amidst the recent troubles and they may rally together to fight for victory here.
I expect a victory for Portsmouth or a draw. If it is a draw the scores will be light as neither of these sides have been prolific this season and Birmingham’s defense is sound.
Fulham v Tottenham
This one will be intense. Fulham are flying high after advancing through to the last sixteen in the Europa League and Tottenham have finally found their feet after a midseason lull.
It will be interesting to see if Pavlyuchenko, a new found goal machine, will start for Tottenham or if Crouch – who scored twice for England midweek – will take his place. I expect the former to cause more trouble for Fulham but either way Tottenham will be formidable up front. Tottenham are also waiting on news over injury hit Jenas and Huddlestone.
Bobby Zamora is firing on all cylinders recently for Fulham and after shocking the UEFA Cup holders last week he will now set his sights on Spurs. The striker missed out on an England call but still has a very small chance of making it on the plane to the World Cup. Fulham enjoyed an easy progression to the Quarter Finals when they romped passed League Two side Notts County, but they certainly know how to play against the big boys.
I expect Tottenham to overload Fulham with their striking prowess and take a comfortable win from this game. Fulham have been very good at home this season but they just don’t seem to have enough to beat Tottenham.
Reading v Aston Villa
Reading have already taken three huge scalps in this competition and no matter what happens their fans will remember this cup run – and the wins against Liverpool, Burnley and West Brom – for a long time to come. They are not doing very well in the Championship and are the only non-Premiership side left in this competition, but they really do come alive in the cup.
Aston Villa came so close to snatching some silverware against Manchester United in the Carling Cup and they will want to lift the spirit of the team, and the fans, with another good cup run. They shouldn’t underestimate Reading after watching them progress this far, and with the abundance of talent they have on offer they will fancy their chances.
I think Reading may go close here and may even push Villa to a replay, but I think their run has come to an end and however they do it; Aston Villa should be the team to advance here. Those who like to bet in-play might want to wait for a bit as there is a good chance Reading could nick the opening goal in this game, lifting the odds for a Villa win.
Chelsea v Stoke
Chelsea are in a tight battle for the league title and have to keep one eye on the Champions League. Add to that some internal issues (with Terry and Cole) and you have a club that is not having the best of times lately. Last week I correctly predicted that they wouldn’t beat Manchester City in the league, but I certainly wasn’t expecting City to demolish them the way they did and had expected only a draw.
Stoke City are still toppling teams with their long throw-ins and aerial power. They were beaten by Arsenal last time out in a game that was overshadowed by the injury to Aaron Ramsey, but the cup is a different ball game. A twisted logic says they have this one in the bag as they beat Manchester City in the Cup and then Manchester City beat Chelsea in the league, but that’s not the way football works unfortunately.
I am hoping for a draw and would advise a Lay against Chelsea, but every bone in my body is screaming at me to say that Chelsea will come out all guns blazing on Sunday and will slaughter Stoke to prove a point to themselves and their fans. My best advice would be to sit and wait for an in-play bet, see which Chelsea shows up on the day. Without Cech they will certainly struggle against Stoke’s long throws as well – tricky to call.