The tense rivalries at both ends of the Premier League recommence this weekend with vital battles raging for the title, Champions League places and to avoid relegation.
Liverpool’s unexpected defeat to Wigan last Monday means that the fourth Champions League spot really is up for grabs. Tottenham are one of a handful of teams with realistic European ambitions and they can continue their push for fourth spot with a home win against Blackburn Rovers in front of the TV cameras on Saturday.
The FA Cup reaches the quarter final stage this weekend with Chelsea the firm 11/10 favourites to retain the trophy they won at Wembley in May.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have not been on the best form in recent weeks, and host a Stoke side who were unbeaten in 2010 before Arsenal’s late show at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Tony Pulis’ team were my 40/1 outside tip for the Cup before the third round, and even though Chelsea might not be firing on all cylinders, their home record is terrific and I can’t see the Potters winning this one.
Welcome to our weekly column where we try and seek good value in some longer odds bets.
A frustrating week this week. Stoke did the business for us against Portsmouth before Mallorca cost us a nice profit by losing their first home match of the 2009/10 season. Stacey Slater (not Ian Beale) killed Archie in Eastenders and Ross Fisher had a terrible WGC World Matchplay, losing in the first round to Thongchai Jaidee.
1pt Ireland to beat England in the Six Nations by 6-10 points at 11/2
It’s a tough match to call at Twickenham as England try to continue their 100% Six Nations record in 2010 against a bruised Ireland team, soundly beaten in Paris last time out.
Carling Cup Final
The first major domestic silverware of the season will be decided this Sunday as Aston Villa take on Manchester United in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley.
United have shown signs of taking this tournament more seriously in recent years with two of their three League Cup wins coming in the last four years. The reigning champions have played a much stronger side in the Carling Cup in the last couple of years and haven’t lost a fixture in the tournament since September 2008.
The first major trophy of the season will be decided this Sunday as Aston Villa play Manchester United in the Carling Cup Final. United are the 5/6 favourites to retain the trophy but Villa look terrific value at 7/2 to win their first silverware under Martin O’Neill.
In the Premier League, the battle for a Champions League spot continues as Manchester City travel to Chelsea and Spurs host Everton. Stoke City continue to impress and can put another dent in Arsenal’s title ambitions with a win at the Brittania at 4/1.
After a break for FA Cup and European fixtures, the domestic programme resumes this weekend as Everton take on Manchester United. United have a good recent record against the Toffees and can be backed at 5/6.
Another side on a great run in 2010 are Stoke City who remain unbeaten this year. I predicted they would avoid defeat at Manchester City last weekend in the FA Cup and they look great value at 23/10 to beat a doomed Portsmouth side at Fratton Park.
Aston Villa remain in the Champions League qualification hunt and should be too good for Burnley on Sunday. Spurs can beat Wigan at evens and Manchester City can take a giant step towards realising their own European ambitions by beating Liverpool at 6/4.
Two teams who were in European action in midweek open this Saturday’s Premier League programme. Everton should really have put Sporting Lisbon to the sword (despite a 2-1 win) whilst Manchester United recovered from a shaky first half to record a memorable 3-2 win against AC Milan in the San Siro.
David Moyes’ side are on a good run of form with an away draw against Arsenal and home wins over both Chelsea and Manchester City in 2010. However, United seemed to have started their habitual spring run of form and can be backed at 5/6.
It is FA Cup Fifth Round time in England and Chelsea remain firm favourites to retain the Cup. The league leaders face 2008 finalists Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and can continue their march in three competitions with a win at 1/6.
It is FA Cup fifth round weekend in England and Chelsea have a great chance to continue their progress on three fronts. The reigning cup holders take on 2008 finalists Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge and are 1/6 to take their place in the next round.
Chelsea’s home form is, as ever, excellent and Cardiff were thumped 5-1 at St James’ Park in their last away fixture. I can’t see anything other than a win for Carlo Ancelotti’s side in this one.
It’s a weekend of derby action in the Premier League and Saturday begins with one of the biggest of them all; Liverpool v Everton. It’s the 182nd league meeting between the two Merseyside rivals and Everton have a great chance to put one over on their neighbours. David Moyes’ side have been in good form over recent weeks and are 7/2 to defeat Benitez’s misfiring side.
It’s the 182nd league Merseyside derby this Saturday as Liverpool play Everton at Anfield. Liverpool continue to struggle to find any decent form whereas Everton have improved in recent weeks. The home side are 4/5 to prevail although the 5/2 on the draw might prove better value.
Despite their excellent start to the season, Burnley now sit just inside the Premier League relegation zone. It gets no easier for new manager Brian Laws as, after a baptism of fire at Old Trafford, his side face Chelsea this weekend.
After a short blip before Christmas, Chelsea have been in superb form over recent weeks, even without leading scorer Didier Drogba who has been on African Cup of Nations duty. However, Burnley have lost just once at Turf Moor this season and so there will be a few tempted by the 10/1 about them beating the league leaders on Saturday.