West Brom v West Ham
It’s common knowledge that the fifth round is my least favourite round of the FA Cup and I’m nonplussed by the early kick-off given that Andy Carroll is out for the Hammers, so here’s a sample of my favourite non-FA Cup facts to be getting on with:
* Staring at breasts (male or female) daily can extend a person’s life by five years.
* It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.
* ‘Lobster Kettle’ was a Victorian euphemism for sex.
Betting: Draw at 5/2 (Boylesports)
Blackburn Rovers v Stoke
Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes returns to another of his old clubs this weekend as Stoke take on Blackburn. Hughes’ side were humbled by another of his former employers in Man City in the week but that 4-1 defeat was only Stoke’s second loss in ten matches. They have no relegation worries and therefore should be able to give this both barrels. With this in mind I see them as über-backable at 6/4 here.
Betting: Stoke to win at 6/4 (Hills)
Derby v Reading
The Rams are bang in form and I make them absolute bankers here. Now I’ll level with you, I listened to Alan Brazil interviewing Darren Bent on Thursday morning en route to graft and it was 11 minutes of Partridge-esque nonsense from the calorifically challenged Scot. Bent was awful as well and it’s a shame as I had a lot of time for him on FIFA 13. Darren, if you are reading this, you can compensate me for that audio horror show on Thursday by scoring first at the iPro Stadium. Cheers mush.
Betting: Bent to score first at 9/2 (bet365)
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
One of the best FA Cup matches I ever saw on TV was the 1990 semi between Palace and Liverpool. On that balmy April day way back when the unfancied Eagles pulled off a seismic shock as they beat the Reds 4-3. Alan Pardew was on the field for Palace that day and he’ll be hoping for another positive result at Selhurst Park, where Palace beat Liverpool 3-1 earlier this season. Liverpool should edge through here, but I wouldn’t put the rent money on it.
Betting: Both teams to score at 5/6 (Ladbrokes)
Aston Villa v Leicester City
Massive Midlands derby on Sunday as a pathetic manager-less Villa team take on a Leicester side who have lost four out of their last five. It should be bouncing at Villa Park but I genuinely can’t split them at time of writing. All conventional wisdom points to a low-scoring affair but I didn’t become a betting tipster for the greatest football website of them all by flooring conventional wisdom. F*ck it kids, let’s lump on the overs.
Betting: Over 2.5 goals at 11/10 (Paddy Power)
Bradford v Sunderland
Bradford beating Chelsea 4-2 from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge simply has to go down as the absolute daddy of FA Cup shocks. And if you fancy the Bantams to continue their fairytale run you can get 3/1 about them beating Sunderland at home. It could happen. The Black Cats are prone to throwing in a bag of sh*te performance every few weeks and they were awful by all accounts against QPR the other night.
Betting: Bradford to win at 3/1 (Paddy Power)
Arsenal v Middlesbrough
The game of the weekend may come at the Emirates, where Arsenal entertain a bang-in-form Middlesbrough. The Boro have won their last six and have actually lost just once since October 21. Thousands will be making the trip from Teesside where Aitor Karanka has transformed the Smoggies in recent months. I mean bejaysus he’s even for Jonathan Woodgate playing (and scoring) again. I remember an item on Sky Sports News when Woodgate resigned for Boro. “I’m delighted and honoured to work with a player like Jonathan again,” said a deadpan Boro physio.
Betting: Middlesbrough to win (Draw no bet) at 9/2 (Paddy Power)