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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Midweek Football Picks 2018 (February 6-7)

Tuesday 6th February is an important day for Manchester United and everyone associated with the club as it comes 60 years after the Munich Air Disaster which took the lives of so many of the Busby Babes.

It's always important to remember those who have come before.

The Flowers of Manchester will be remembered forever.

This week is the one really quiet one in the February Football calendar with a few FA Cup Fourth Round Replays to be played ahead of the resumption of the Champions League and Europa League and the Knock Out Rounds next week.

Some teams will get a little more rest than others in February with the Fifth Round of the FA Cup taking place in the middle weekend of the month and not at the expense of League games. However for some of the big clubs in England it is another busy month with those European games to come alongside League matters with so much still to play for at this stage of the campaign.

Birmingham City v Huddersfield Town Pick: The chance to host Manchester United in a live FA Cup Fifth Round tie is on the line for both Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town as they meet in a Fourth Round Replay on Tuesday. That will encourage the players, but the motivations of the two managers may not be more contrasting.

While Steve Cotterill has started to see his Birmingham City team put a little gap between themselves and the bottom three in the Championship, David Wagner's Huddersfield Town slipped into the bottom three of the Premier League this weekend having lost 5 straight League games.

There is no doubt the home game against Bournemouth this weekend is the priority for Wagner and getting the chance to host Manchester United again next season is a bigger draw than playing them at home again in the 2017/18 campaign.

No manager wants to lose a game deliberately, but the Wagner team selection is likely to see a number of fringe players starting with the key players rested for Sunday.

On the other hand Cotterill can pick a strong team as Birmingham City have been improving and have some momentum behind them. The home fans will be desperate to welcome Manchester United in the Fifth Round and I think the manager and players are also going to be very keen to see that happen.

Birmingham City have won 3 of their last 4 games at home and while there is a big gap between the teams in the League standings, the team selection may just lean towards the home team being the better one on the day.

It will be close as Birmingham City can be a little up and down at home, but they look to be improving at the right time. This fixture also comes at a better time for The Blues than Huddersfield Town and backing the home team on the Asian Handicap does at least return the stake in the event of a draw.

I do think they are the more likelier of the sides to win the game though and I will back Birmingham City here.

Rochdale v Millwall Pick: The winner of this tie is very likely to face Tottenham Hotspur at home in the FA Cup Fifth Round and that is going to make this Fourth Round Replay a little more tense.

Both Rochdale and Millwall will very much want to be in the position to host one of the best teams in England with the financial rewards on offer for a televised game.

After the 2-2 draw at the New Den the feeling is that Rochdale may have missed their best chance to beat Millwall. They were leading going into injury time on that day before having to settle for a Replay and Rochdale have not been in great form in recent weeks even though they did win this past weekend.

The struggles have come at Spotland too with back to back losses and Rochdale are taking on a Millwall team that have recently found consecutive away wins at a higher level. Millwall did blow a 0-2 lead here in the League last season before settling for a 3-3 draw, but they are a team playing with confidence and can get the better of Rochdale in the Fourth Round Replay.

It will be a tough game with the knowledge of the reward that is on the line, but Millwall can show their superior quality in the Replay.

At odds against they are worth backing to avoid the upset and move through to another FA Cup Fifth Round.

Swansea City v Notts County Pick: The Premier League remains the priority for Swansea City, but Carlos Carvalhal has picked strong teams in the FA Cup and that has helped build some momentum in the League too.

There is potentially more motivation for the manager personally as the winner of this tie gets to play at Hillsborough in the Fifth Round- Carvalhal was sacked by Sheffield Wednesday days before taking over as manager of Swansea City and the chance to return to his former club will be one he relishes.

I don't think the approach to the FA Cup will change from Carvalhal and that should see a strong Swansea City team picked.

They will respect League Two Notts County who gave a good account of themselves in the 1-1 draw in the initial tie in Nottingham. However this is a much different test for them having to travel to a Premier League club and I think the lower League club will end up coming up short.

While I don't think Swansea City will blow past Notts County, I do think they can perhaps catch Notts County chasing the game and potentially getting a little tired in the last twenty minutes of this Replay. That should see them able to win this fixture by a couple of goals on the evening and I will back Swansea City to cover the Asian Handicap.

Tottenham Hotspur v Newport County Pick: The only real question about this FA Cup Fourth Round tie is the kind of team that Mauricio Pochettino will pick for Tottenham Hotspur during a tough period in their season. With games to come against Arsenal in the Premier League and Juventus in the Champions League, the manager is likely going to see this as a chance to rest some key players.

However he has picked strong teams in the FA Cup this season despite playing against opponents that many would feel would give Tottenham Hotspur a chance for more rotation. For example Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen have both started in the games against Wimbledon and Newport County as Pochettino seems to have made silverware a real priority.

The Fifth Round will see Tottenham Hotspur either visit Millwall or Rochdale which gives Spurs a very good chance of reaching the Quarter Final of the FA Cup again this season.

No one will be taking Newport County for granted having seen the League Two team play as well as they did at Rodney Parade in the initial tie. That was played on a pitch that was not the best though and it will be much tougher to repeat that at Wembley Stadium where Tottenham Hotspur should be very comfortable playing their football.

Barring a real shock team selection, Tottenham Hotspur should be able to make some rotations and still have a team capable of winning this match fairly comfortably. They beat Wimbledon 3-0 at home in the Third Round and I can see Newport County perhaps having a similar night out as they struggle to maintain their fitness levels to the same place as Tottenham Hotspur.

That may mean Tottenham Hotspur are able to hit Newport County with a couple of late strikes that enables them to win this game fairly comfortably on the night. I will back the home team to win and cover the Asian Handicap to keep the momentum going as they move towards the North London derby this weekend.

MY PICKS: Birmingham City 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.93 Bet365 (2 Units)
Millwall @ 2.20 Bet365 (2 Units)
Swansea City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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