Liverpool v Everton
Newly crowned African Footballer of the Year Mo Salah and Philippe Coutinho are missing for the Reds, but I still fancy them to beat Everton. The atmosphere at Anfield should be bouncing and this is only the third time in 25 years the pair have been drawn together in the FA Cup. Quite how Everton escaped with a point when the teams met in December is anyone’s guess but I fancy Liverpool to smash their Merseyside rivals here – with Mr Klopp on record saying he will go with his strongest team available – in a game that will surely produce goals.
Betting: Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 12/5 (Bet Stars)
Manchester United v Derby County
It’s clear Jose Mourinho just doesn’t fancy Marcus Rashford as a central striker but he might get his chance against Derby in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Romelu Lukaku only just returning. Rashford has still managed nine goals for the Red Devils this season despite Jose’s reluctance to let him off the leash to just terrorise defenders with his skill, pace and power. On Friday night, all things being equal, young Marcus will hopefully prove a point to his stubborn boss while also landing the gamble for this column.
Betting: Rashford to score first at 4/1 (Sky Bet)
Fleetwood Town v Leicester City
If Leicester are taking the FA Cup seriously this season they’d be my each-way bet for glory. Claude Puel seems to be getting a merry tune out of the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and if both or either are involved this weekend the Foxes won’t go far wrong.
Betting: Leicester to win and over 2.5 goals at 11/8 (Betway)
Middlesbrough v Sunderland
Boro look a tempting proposition here at 3/4 to beat a Sunderland side who are anchored to the bottom of the Championship. Yes, Middlesbrough have been making hard work of life in English football’s second tier, but man-for-man they look a better side than their north east rivals, who do not have anyone who can score goals with regularity. And in football, as in life, you won’t go very far unless you know where the goalposts are.
Betting: Middlesbrough to win to nil at 13/8 (Sky Bet)
Manchester City v Burnley
Pep Guardiola’s ensemble are rather unsurprisingly chalked up as favourites for this season’s FA Cup and the bookies are convinced they will steamroller past Burnley at the Etihad. Pep will definitely shuffle his pack but this is a squad that scores goals by the bucketload and there’s no reason to suggest Saturday’s game won’t see its fair share of old onion bag action.
Betting: Over 3.5 goals at 6/5 (Marathon Bet)
Newcastle United v Luton Town
For long enough now the Magpies have regarded the FA Cup precisely how a marathon runner might regard getting a bit of s**t on his shoe. And for this reason it might be worth a punt on Luton causing a Cup shock on Tyneside. The Hatters are four clear at the top of League Two and will go into this under no pressure at all. 13/2? Oh go on then…
Betting: Luton to win at 13/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Coventry City v Stoke City
Now if my window cleaner started cleaning my downstairs windows with his sleeve and failed to do the upstairs bedrooms at all, but when challenged, arrogantly asked, “who else is going to do it?”, I would obviously scatter him. Why then is Mark Hughes still in employment? Stoke have picked up just five wins in 22 games and are perilously close to the drop zone. The loss to Newcastle was their fifth in seven matches, yet still Sparky feels he is “the best person” to take the club forward. Hughes has basically gone all General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth in recent weeks, but a pig-headed unwillingness to look the facts in the face will not save them from relegation. Coventry might now be a League Two outfit, whose best FA Cup moment was winning the final over 30 years ago on a sun-drenched afternoon at Wembley, but they look a genuinely tempting price here at 4/1 to spring a shock on Saturday.
Betting: Coventry City to win at 4/1 (bet365/Hills)
Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon
While he must be f**king sick of playing second fiddle to Harry Kane, Fernando Llorente should start for Spurs here and the man they call ‘El Rey Leon’ could be worth siding with to score first. He’s bagged two in his last four for Tottenham and should get plenty of chances against a Wimbledon side who are as big as 33/1 to win at Wembley.
Betting: Llorente to score first at 7/2 (bet365)
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Obviously if Arsenal concede a dodgy penalty at the City Ground Arsene Wenger will just spontaneously combust into 5,000 little pieces. More likely however is he presides over a hard fought 2-1 victory in Nottingham, while again struggling to zip up his jacket.
Betting: Arsenal to win 2-1 at 15/2 (Sun Bets/Unibet)