Thursday, 24 January 2013

FA Cup Fourth Round: Ones to watch

Having witnessed a number of shocks in the third round, the FA Cup makes it's appearance again this weekend. The last round saw non-league sides Luton Town and Macclesfield fly the flag with shock victories over Wolves and Cardiff respectively. The last round also saw just the one Premier League side knocked out by lower league opposition. Newcastle United fell to Championship side Brighton at the AMEX which saw them continue their poor form this season.

#1 Brentford v Chelsea
After being knocked out of the Capital One Cup semi finals this week, Chelsea will want a similar run in the FA Cup. The Premier League side are the current holders of the competition having beaten Liverpool in the final last season. Rafa Benitez has had a mixed spell as interim manager with defeats at home to Swansea in the cup, and to QPR in the league. Benitez will be expected to field a strong team that will be without Eden Hazard who got himself stupidly sent off against Swansea this week. The form of Fernando Torres continues with the striker failing to score since the 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa in December. They come up against League One side Brentford who currently sit third in the table. The West London side have only lost once in the league since mid October, and have striker Clayton Donaldson to thank with the big man scoring 19 goals in all competitions for them this season. The former Crewe forward scored the winning goal in Brentford's third round replay against Southend.
Prediction: Brentford 1-4 Chelsea
#2 Norwich City v Luton Town
Non-league side Luton Town disposed of Championship side Wolves in the last round, resulting in the Midland's boss then being sacked. The current Conference side are currently battling for promotion from the top tier of non-league football having missed out narrowly in the play offs last season. Paul Buckle's men have a number of games in hand over their play off rivals and will certainly take pleasure in travelling to Premier League side Norwich City this weekend. The Canaries comfortably overcame Peterborough United in the last round beating the Championship side 3-0 at London Road. Chris Hughton's men have since been struggling in the league having not produced a win since 15th Dec where they beat Wigan Athletic 2-1 at home. Goals have been a problem this season, with Robert Snodgrass their top scorer with five goals. Norwich have only reached the fifth round once in the last four seasons, where they lost to Leicester City last season. 
Prediction: Norwich City 3-0 Luton Town
#3 Oldham Athletic v Liverpool
These two sides met in the competition last year in the third round, where Liverpool came out comfortable 5-1 winners. The Premier League side went on to the final last year ending up as runners up to Chelsea. Oldham currently sit 19th in League One fighting a relegation battle so a big FA Cup game has come as a useful distraction for the club and the fans. Striker Jose Baxter will certainly be looking forward to the game as a former Everton player and with 11 goals to his name this season, the forward will fancy himself to get on the scoresheet. Brendan Rogers' Liverpool will once again look for another cup run having won the competition seven times. Rogers' team currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League and have certainly improved over the season. New January signing Daniel Sturridge could not have asked for a better start to his Liverpool career having netted in each of is three appearances for the reds. The former Chelsea man has struck up an excellent partnership with Luis Suarez with the Uruguayan man who has 20 goals to his name this season. 
Prediction: Oldham Athetic 0-2 Liverpool
#4 Brighton v Arsenal
Brighton reached this stage last season beating Newcastle United at home. The Championship side went on to the fifth round where they were beaten by Liverpool. Gus Poyet's men beat Newcastle again this year in the last round where they secured a home tie against Premier League giants Arsenal. The Championship side are again enjoying another season in the second tier of English football as they fight for a play off place. Striker Craig Mackail Smith is once again proving what a top player he is at this level with 11 goals this season to his name. Arsenal will not find it easy getting to the fifth round. Despite a 5-1 thumping of West Ham in the week, Arsene Wenger's side have been very inconsistent this season. They needed a replay to get past Swansea in the last round and had Jack Wilshere to thank for his late winner. The midfielder has been a much needed return for the Gunners as they aim to secure a Champions League place in the league. 
Prediction Brighton 1-2 Arsenal
#5 Macclesfield Town v Wigan Athletic
Having knocked out Cardiff City in the last round, non-league side Macclesfield Town will be looking for a similar result, this time against Premier League opposition. Two goals in the space of three minutes saw the shock of the round as high flying Cardiff City were dumped out of the cup. Striker Matthew Barnes-Homer is one to watch with the striker having scored 20 goals this season. The Conference side sit ninth in the league as they aim to get back into the football league. They come up against Wigan Athletic who needed a replay to get passed Bournemouth in the third round. Roberto Martinez's side will hope to avoid another cup upset as they were beaten by League One side Swindon in last year's third round. Wigan are again fighting another relegation battle in the Premier League, and a cup run for the Lancashire side would do no harm at all. Watch out for this game as another cup upset  is more than possible in this fixture.
 Prediction: Macclesfield 1-0 Wigan Athletic

Other fourth round ties:
Millwall v Aston Villa (Prediction: 1-1)
Stoke v Man City (Prediction: 1-2)
Bolton v Everton (Prediction: 1-2)
Derby v Blackburn Rovers (Prediction: 2-2)
Huddersfield v Leicester City (Prediction: 0-2)
Hull v Barnsley (Prediction: 0-1)
Middlesbrough v Aldershot (Prediction: 3-0)
QPR v MK Dons (Prediction: 2-0)
Reading v Sheff Utd (Prediction: 2-1)
Man Utd v Fulham (Prediction: 3-0)
Leeds Utd v Tottenham (Prediction: 1-2)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

FA Cup Third Round: Ones to watch

This coming weekend sees one of the favourite dates in the football calendar, as the third round of the FA Cup comes to our screens. Below are some of the key ties that were drawn, and games you should keep a look out on.

#1 Mansfield Town v Liverpool
The tie of the round sees Liverpool travel to Blue Square Premier League side Mansfield. The non-league side are one of four sides from outside the football league still in the competition. The side from Nottinghamshire have had a relatively simple route through to the third round dispatching of fellow non-league sides Slough and Lincoln City. Mansfield currently sit ninth in the Blue Square Premier and have had a quiet period during Christmas having seen two of their four games postponed due to the weather. They come up against runners up of the competition last season Liverpool who are currently in excellent form winning three of their four games over the winter period. Brendan Rogers men will be strong favourites to win the game which should see new man Daniel Sturridge make his first appearance for the club. With tough fixtures to come for the Merseyside club, Rogers will look to rest some of his names, giving youngsters, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan a run out.
Prediction: Mansfield Town 0-3 Liverpool
#2 West Ham Utd v Man Utd
The last time these two teams met in this competition, Man United ran out comfortable 6-0 winners at Old Trafford back in 2003. Despite this, the Hammers will feel there is a slight chance of an upset on the cards at Upton Park come Saturday evening. The two teams also met in the competition back in 2001 where a Paolo Di Canio goal was enough for his side to progress beating United at Old Trafford. The potential arrival of Joe Cole this week may see the former Hammer play having struggled to play much football over the last few years whilst at Liverpool. Opponents United, are currently flying at the top of the league thanks to new signing Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman has netted an impressive 19 goals in all competitions and has been the obvious difference between his side and rivals Manchester City.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Man United
#3 Brighton & HA v Newcastle Utd
These two sides once again meet each other in the competition having played against each other in last years fourth round. The home side came out shock winners beating the Premier League side 1-0 at the Amex Stadium. Mike Williamson's own goal was enough for the home side to progress to the fifth round. Brighton, are currently ninth in the Championship, three points from a play off place and registered their first win on New Years Day since the end of November with a 3-0 away success at Ipswich. Newcastle will want to avoid a repeat of last years game between the two. Alan Pardew's side's defeat to Everton this week saw his team lose their fifth game in six. The departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea leaves Pardew with just Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi as options in attack. However it's defence where Newcastle need refreshing and with the January transfer window now open, Pardew has the opportunity to bring in fresh faces to boost his back four. 
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Newcastle United
#4 Middlesbrough v Hastings Utd
Hastings United, like Mansfield, are one of the four non-league sides remaining in the competition. The side from Sussex are the lowest ranked team in the cup and play their games in the Ryman League Premier Division, three leagues from League Two. United overcame fellow non-league side Harrogate Town in the last round, beating them on penalties after the two sides matched each other in the first game and replay. They face a tough test as they travel to in form Middlesbrough. The Championship side currently sit in fourth place and enjoyed a successful Christmas period winning three out of four games. Tony Mowbray's men enjoyed a decent cup run in the Capital One Cup this season, which ended, after losing 1-0 to Swansea in the quarter finals. Despite suffering a number of injuries to his side, Mowbray's men will surely have too much for the Ryman side on Saturday. 
Prediction: Middlesbrough 4-0 Hastings United
#5 Luton Town v Wolves
Luton go into the third round as the highest ranked non-league side in the competition. Despite coming desperately close to promotion to the football league last season. Luton have had a mixed season so far, and find themselves in the final play off place in the conference. Like Mansfield, Luton have also had a relatively simple passage through to the third round despatching of fellow non-league sides Nuneaton and Dorchester. Visitors for Luton come in the form of Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Championship side have struggled so far this season after suffering relegation from the Premier League last year. Manager Stale Solbakken has become under increasing pressure over the last month as his side slipped to 18th in the league just six points from the relegation zone. Recent home defeats to Ipswich and Peterborough United are increasing the pressure for him to be sacked. Despite the poor league form, the quality and experience in the Wolves squad should see them safely though, but as always with the FA Cup, Luton may cause a potential upset on the day. 
Prediction: Luton Town 1-2 Wolves
#6 Tottenham Hotspur v Coventry City
The last and only time Coventry City won this competition, was against Spurs back in 1987. An extra time own goal from Tottenham's Gary Mabbutt gave the Sky Blues a day to remember at Wembley for the club and their fans. Since that memorable day, the two sides have rarely met since Coventry's decline into the Football League. The last meeting between the sides came back in 2003 where Spurs beat City 3-0 in the League Cup. Coventry, relegated from the Championship last season, have had a mixed season and sit mid table in League One, five points from the play off's. They have only lost twice in their last ten league games and with the goals from striker David McGoldrick, the Sky Blues will look to challenge for a play off spot in the second half of the season. Tottenham will go into the game as the favourites and have enjoyed a good run of their own of late in the league.  One defeat in nine league games has seen AVB's men rise to third in the league. The goals from Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe have been very important as Spurs look to challenge for a top four finish. 
Prediction: Spurs 3-1 Coventry City
#7 Cheltenham Town v Everton
The final tie of the round is between Cheltenham and Everton as they battle it out on Monday night in front of the ESPN cameras. The League Two side progressed to the third round having beaten Hereford over two games in the second round. Currently sitting in the play off's, Cheltenham have only won one of their last four league games, so an FA Cup distraction has come at the perfect time for Mark Yates' men. They reached the third round of the cup last season, facing Tottenham at White Hart Lane where they were comfortably dispatched 3-0. Everton will go into the game as strong favourites and will hope for a healthy scoreline as they continue their good form of late. One defeat in their last eight league games has seen the Toffee's reach fifth place and a constant threat to the top four. Despite only scoring six times in all competitions, striker Nikica Jelavic has been well supported from Marouane Fellaini who has hit the net eight times this season. 
Prediction: Cheltenham 0-2 Everton

...and the rest!

Aldershot v Rotherham (Prediction 1-2)
Aston Villa v Ipswich Town (Prediction 2-0)
Barnsley v Burnley (Predcition 1-2)
Blackburn v Bristol City (Prediction 3-0)
Bolton v Sunderland (Prediction 1-1)
Charlton v Huddersfield (Prediction 2-0)
Crawley Town v Reading (Prediction 1-2)
Crystal Palace v Stoke City (Prediction 2-2)
Derby v Tranmere (Prediction 2-1)
Fulham v Blackpool (Prediction: 3-1)
Hull v Leyton Orient (Prediction 3-0)
Leeds v Birmingham (Prediction 1-1)
Leicester v Burton Albion (Prediction 4-0)
Macclesfield v Cardiff City (Prediction 0-2)
Man City v Watford (Prediction 4-0)
Millwall v Preston (Prediction 1-1)
Notts Forest v Oldham (Prediction 2-1)
Oxford Utd v Sheffield Utd (Prediction 0-2)
Peterborough Utd v Norwich City (Prediction 1-3)
QPR v West Brom (Prediction 1-1)
Sheff Wed v MK Dons (Prediction 1-2)
Southampton v Chelsea (Prediction 1-0)
Southend v Brentford (Prediction 1-1)
Wigan v Bournemouth (Prediction 2-0)
Swansea v Arsenal (Prediction 2-1)

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Capital One Cup: Semi final previews

Having witnessed a busy Christmas period in the football calendar, attention turns to the Capital Once Cup and the semi finals which sees Bradford City within 180 minutes of a Wembley appearance. Their shock penalty shoot out victory over Arsenal in the quarter finals stunned the football world as they embarrassed a full strength Arsenal team. The League Two side will face Aston Villa in the semi finals, whilst in the other semi, Swansea will face Chelsea.

#1 Bradford City v Aston Villa
League Two Bradford City's appearance in the semi finals sees them as the first team from the bottom tier of the Football League to play in the semis since Wycombe Wanderers back in 2006/07. Their penalty shoot out win over Arsenal was their ninth consecutive penalty shoot out victory on the bounce. The first leg will be played at Valley Parade in Bradford where they will look to try and gain an early advantage over their Premier League opponents. Villa will be pleased to have a distraction from the league having lost the last three games conceding 15 goals. Paul Lambert's side had surprisingly beaten Liverpool away from home before losing consecutive games to Chelsea, Spurs and Wigan. They made it to the semis having beaten Lambert's former side Norwich City 4-1 away from home. They have won five league cups, the last victory coming back in 1996.

#2 Swansea City v Chelsea
Chelsea romped to a 5-1 victory in the quarter finals at Leeds and will be strong favourites to make the final at Wembley. Interim boss Rafael Benitez has guided the team to an unbeaten run in December which sees his side sit third in the table. Chelsea will be looking at adding another trophy to their collection after a double triumph last season with FA Cup and Champions League final victories. Striker Fernando Torres has begun to find some old form scoring 14 goals in all competitions so far this season. Opponents Swansea overcame Middlesbrough in the quarter finals and have also beaten Liverpool in the competition too, beating former manager Brendan Rogers' side 3-1 at Anfield. New man at the helm Michael Laudrup has guided the Welsh side to their first cup semi final in the history of the club, having experienced an excellent first few months in his role. New man up top, Michu, has been a brilliant acquisition firing in 14 goals in all competitions so far this season.

The two legs for both games will be played in the week of the 7th January and the 21st January.