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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Weekend Football Picks (January 26-27)

It is FA Cup Fourth Round weekend as the Premier League takes a little break before two rounds of matches over the next week.

Obviously, checking out team selection is a big key for success as some managers decide they don't want to risk a long Cup run in favour of what their League goals are, while others are just resting players with one eye on up coming games.

However, these are the picks I am making from the action this weekend:

Stoke City v Manchester City Pick: Technically, the FA Cup Fourth Round started on Friday night when Millwall beat Aston Villa, but this is the opening TV game of Saturday which will really get the fans going in this Round.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has enjoyed considerable success in this competition over the last couple of seasons, reaching the Final in 2011 and then following that up with a Quarter Final appearance in 2012 and I do believe that the side are safe enough in the Premier League to at least give the competition another run this season.

There is no doubt that this is a very tough task to knock out Manchester City, a team that won the FA Cup a couple of seasons ago and one that will take the competition seriously with no European commitments down the stretch and already chasing Manchester United in the Premier League.

I expect both sides to send out the strongest teams they have available and this ground has regularly been one where Manchester City have struggled since Stoke returned to the top flight.

They drew here earlier this season and the 1-1 has been a very common score when they have met each other at the Brittania Stadium, the games finishing with that scoreline in 5 of the last 6 at Stoke City. I know Chelsea won here 0-4 recently, but that scoreline was harsh on Stoke to say the least and they have proven how tough they are to beat here.

I think Manchester City will eventually come through the tie, but don't be at all surprised if it needs a replay for that to happen and so backing the draw looks the call from the game.

Bolton Wanderers v Everton Pick: Just last season, this would have been an established Premier League game and it will be interesting to see how Everton respond to their tepid performance at St Mary's on Monday night.

It is very clear that David Moyes is desperate to add a bit of silverware to his CV for his time at Everton and they have come close in the FA Cup a couple of times, reaching the Semi Final last season before losing a one goal lead in a loss to rivals Liverpool.

I do expect to see a strong Everton side come out at the Reebok Stadium, even though there is perhaps a chance that some players will be rested as Everton will want to pick up points from their Premier League games and keep the pressure on the teams above them for the Champions League places.

They are also facing a Bolton Wanderers team that have picked up some form under Dougie Freedman and one that has had the taste of knocking out Premier League opposition with their 0-2 win at Sunderland in a Third Round replay. Freedman was also the manager of Crystal Palace when they surprised Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup last season so he is no stranger in getting his side up for a surprise result.

The other factor to consider is that Everton are one of these sides that have often been involved in a surprise defeat in the Cup competitions and recent years have seen them lose at the likes of Brentford and Shrewsbury Town. This could be a tough one for them to win outright and I wouldn't be totally surprised if Bolton can at least force a replay and get to go to Goodison Park in a couple of weeks time.

Macclesfield Town v Wigan Athletic Pick: This is actually a local derby and it will be interesting to see the kind of team that Roberto Martinez sends out to Moss Rose, although I doubt he would want the embarrassment of being beaten by a non-League club.

Macclesfield Town have been in decent form since surprising runaway Championship leaders Cardiff City in the Third Round here and they'll feel they can give their Premier League neighbours a tough test. With Wigan expected to make some changes to their side, there is a chance that we could see a surprise in the contest.

However, we saw a professional performance from Wigan when they beat Bournemouth 0-1 in a Third Round Replay at Dean Court and I wouldn't be surprised if they need to win this one by the minimum of margins.

I expect it will be tough, I expect Macclesfield will make it tough for a while, but I think it is worth a small interest for this game to be level at half time before the Premier League fitness tells late in the game and Wigan grab the win in the second half.

Middlesbrough v Aldershot Town Pick: The next couple of picks are both going to take the same kind of thinking for my reasoning for taking them.

The first is Middlesbrough to beat Aldershot Town by a couple of goals in this one. I think the Championship side will at least take this game seriously and try and get some momentum for their League game. The fact that they don't have to play again for a week means Tony Mowbray doesn't have to worry about resting players and I think the 4-1 win over Hastings United here in the Third Round shows that intention will likely remain the same.

I don't want to under-estimate an Aldershot Town side that have been playing better in recent weeks, but it is a big ask for them to come here and earn a draw as they did at Wolves in the Capital One Cup earlier this season. The side do concede a fair few goals and they meet a Middlesbrough team that have been scoring heavily at the Riverside Stadium all season.

You just have to think the higher League club will show their class when it is all said and done and so I will back them on the handicaps.

Norwich City v Luton Town Pick: Much like I said for the Middlesbrough pick, you have to think that Chris Hughton is going to try and build some momentum for his Norwich City side by putting together a positive Cup run. Norwich have not been playing that well of late, so a defeat against a non-League opponent will not serve anyone at the club very well and I do expect a team to be put out to do the job.

I was happy for Luton Town when they beat Wolves in the Third Round of the FA Cup as the club have really hit on some hard times with a quick relegation down the League pyramid into the Conference. However, this does look a step too far for them and they can concentrate on earning promotion back to the League.

The fact Norwich are home should erase the chances of a surprise, and Luton have been on the end of some heavy beatings on their travels in the Conference so you have to expect Norwich will eventually show their class and win this by a couple of goals at the least.

Manchester United v Fulham Pick: Manchester United fans are all hoping for a FA Cup run this season as it has been far too long since the most successful club in this competition actually lifted the Cup. The draw for the Cup has regularly paired United with fellow Premier League clubs and this season is proving no different as they face Fulham off the back of seeing off West Ham United in the Third Round.

Sir Alex Ferguson played a pretty strong team in both games against West Ham and bringing on Robin Van Persie to score the equaliser in the initial tie at Upton Park shows how much this competition still means to the manager.

I am expecting a strong team out in this one, despite facing Southampton and Fulham, again, in the Premier League in the next week as United will want to complete their way into the Fifth Round at the first attempt and not have another replay to add to the fixture list.

The biggest problem for United in this game will be the returning Dimitar Berbatov, if he is selected, but Fulham are not the same side of even twelve months ago as they haven't really replaced Clint Dempsey or Mousa Dembele effectively in my opinion.

We did see a 3-2 win for United earlier this season against Fulham, but those were the first goals the away side had scored at Old Trafford in 5 visits and I am going for United to go back to basics and win this one without conceding.

Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This looks like a match where an upset is very possible, but I believe Tottenham Hotspur are going to be too strong for a Leeds United side that are much more concentrated on their League form.

Usually going to a lower League club means a bit of culture shock for Premier League players, but visiting Elland Road certainly does not fit into that criteria and the space for Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon should be enough for the away side to win the game.

Andre Villas-Boas has taken Cup competitions seriously in his short time in English football and he clearly sees the benefit of adding silverware to a trophy cabinet so I don't expect wholesale changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Manchester United last weekend.

However, I have to respect a Leeds side that have earned some big results in the FA Cup in recent seasons and keep my interest to a minimum. I would be surprised if there weren't goals in the game and taking Spurs to win with either 3 or 4 goals scored looks the call to me.

MY PICKS: Stoke City-Manchester City Draw @ 3.75 Stan James (1 Unit)
Bolton Wanderers-Everton Draw @ 4.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Draw-Wigan Athletic HT-FT @ 5.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Middlesbrough - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Norwich City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 2.25 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win and 3 or 4 total goals in the match @ 3.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

January Update8-10, + 2.01 Units (25 Units Staked, + 8.04% Yield)

December Final17-24-1, - 0.83 Units (53 Units Staked, - 0.02 % Yield)
November Final8-21, - 8.25 Units (37 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
October Final9-9, + 5.44 Units (27 Units Staked, 20.1% Yield)
September Final17-11, + 21.19 Units (46 Units Staked, 46.1% Yield)
August Final12-13, + 1.29 Units (40 Units Staked, 3.22% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 18.84 Units (203 Units Staked, + 9.28 % Yield)

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